What ARE You Reading???


THE EXPLORER
author: Katherine Rundell
Bloomsbury Childrens (10 August 2017)
ISBN: 9781408854877 
As Fred and his three companions fly over the Amazon in a tiny aeroplane, he dreams of being an explorer...of seeing his name and his discoveries alongside the greats; making his mark on the world. Suddenly, the engine fails, the plane plummets into the canopy of the jungle. When Fred awakens, he finds he has no choice. The pilot, the only adult with them has disappeared and the four children are left alone to fend for themselves in a vast wilderness. With no hope of a rescue any time soon, Fred, Con, Lila and little Max must struggle to survive by their own wits. But, it would seem, someone has been there before them.
What a triumph! The Explorer recalls exceptional classics such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, a bit of Lord of the Flies, and The Little Prince, adding its' own style and boldness to the mix. It is a richly imagined  childhood adventure. The four children show great resilience and strength, while also giving way to doubts and arguments and a full range of experience that drives them forward. They just want to get home. Each character is fully conceived with an insight that lets the reader understand them and their motivations without having to struggle to do so. As the children work their way through the jungle, their back stories are unveiled with great skill and nuance. The added twist,  the appearance of 'the Explorer', who has been stranded in the Amazon for quite some time, creates a juxtaposition of desires and dreams, pitting the young against the old, adaptability against stasis. The writing is fluid, filled with texture. The building of tension with the story is steady and compelling. The descriptions are abundant in detail as sights, scents and sounds spill across the page with little effort. An amazing, exciting, incredible story.

LETTERS FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE
author: Emma Carroll
Faber and Faber (June 2017)
ISBN: 9780571327584
It is 1941 London. A special trip to the cinema, a bombing raid, a mysterious man in the distance and her mothers coat with a coded message in the pocket. This is all Olive remembers about the night her sister, Sukie disappeared into the night. When London becomes too unsafe, Olive and her little brother Cliff are evacuated, along with many other children to the Devon coast, where the find themselves in the care of a private and grumpy lighthouse keeper. But Olive still cannot forget the coded note. Something there links Sukie to Devon, and she must find out what her sister was up to in the dark and dangerous times.
Letters From the Lighthouse is absolutely sterling historical fiction. There have been many books written about the fate of child evacuees during World War 2, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest, with great care given to character and relationship development. The descriptive passages are completely unlaboured, but take the reader to the time and place with ease and believability. The characters and their rapport are genuine and gently handled, painted with a full sense of each of every person so that the reader really knows who they are. The mystery at the heart of the story holds ongoing fascination, absorbing the reader with each little 'reveal'. There is a beautiful unveiling of the story of the Jewish refugees and their search for safety at any cost to themselves; a story that has much impact in our current world; something we would all do well to remember. An intriguing and surprising twist at the end makes for a wonderful, moving read. Sensitive, captivating and filled with the magic of the everyday world, Letters From The Lighthouse ticks all the boxes. I recommend this to everyone, regardless of your age. Just beautiful.

MOONLOCKET (The Cogheart Adventures)
author: Peter Bunzl
Usborne (1 May 2017)
ISBN: 9781474915014
Months have passed since the drama unveiled in Cogheart, and Lily and Robert are now expecting a peaceful, in fact boring summer. But it is not to be. Criminal mastermind and escapologist the Jack of Diamonds has escaped from prison and is searching for the mysterious Moonlocket. But that's not all he's looking for. As dark secrets emerge from Roberts' past cast a long shadow, the two of them find themselves in grave danger. Robert is now part of Jack's sinister and cruel game. With the approach of Queen Victorias' Jubilee, Lily and Malkin, the clockwork fox, must stay one step ahead of Jack if they have any hope of rescuing Robert, solving the mystery of the Moonlockets' map and saving the celebrations.
A proper, old-school mystery with a fantastic Steampunk element, this kept me on the edge of my seat.It seamlessly picks up the Cogheart story and runs with it. Cogheart set out Lilys' story, intriguing and amazing heart-in-your-mouth kind of stuff with a badly behaved heroine that captures the heart. Moonlocket is Roberts' story, told with fascination and revelation that unpeels itself bit by bit throughout. Bunzl sets the scene perfectly, and also develops an emotional landscape within each character that the reader will feel as much as read. The combination of historical fiction, murder mystery, family drama and fantasy/science-fiction is effortlessly mingled in a truly gripping read that deserves your full attention. This is steampunk at its' best. For ages 10+. Just read it! (and if you haven't read Cogheart...well, you just have to!)

RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD
author: Jess Butterworth
Orion Childrens Books ( 1 June 2017)
ISBN: 9781510102088
12-year-old Tash and her best friend, Sam must follow stringent rules in Chinese-occupied Tibet. There are two words that are banned in Tibet. And use of these two words will get a person through in jail without any thought. Dalai Lama. The soldiers are everywhere, guarding all aspects of life and curfews are set to keep the village under control.But when a local man sets himself on fire in protest and the soldiers take Tashs' parents and ransack their home, Tash and Sam must break every rule. They are determined to steal out of Tibet to India and seek the help of the Dalai Lama himself. So with a backpack filled with her Dads' secret papers and two beloved, trusted yaks, Tash and Sam begin a long, hard journey across the Himilayas. Pursued by the soldiers, confronted by nomads, smugglers and bandits, facing the bitter winter cold, will they make it in one piece? And can the Dalai Lama do anything to help them?
Fascinating and well-paced, this novel introduces the Tibetan situation to young people in the form of a riveting adventure story that anyone aged 9+ will enjoy enormously. It deals with incredibly difficult concepts, such as self-immolation protest, in a frank and forthright way without giving into spectacle or sensationalism. It reads very much like a mystery, as the children must reason out each and every circumstance they encounter. It is a tale of courage, determination and inner strength and is bound to fire many questions and much consideration. The characters have genuine voices. Their thoughts are feelings are easily recognisable. Tash is a brilliant character, drawn in such a way that it is easy to picture and understand her, filled with a dauntless sense of determination and expectation (which is also sometimes quite frustrating.) Powerful, without being overwhelming; wise without losing its' humour and hopeful without giving into a desire for facile answers, this is a story that will live long in the memory of the reader and give an honest and open understanding of some of the more difficult situations in life. Running on the Roof of the World is a triumph and I recommend it thoroughly.

THE CITY OF SECRET RIVERS
author: Jacob Sager Weinstein
Walker Books (1 June 2017)
ISBN: 9781406368857
Hyacinth Hayward has recently moved to London from America. With only her eccentric mother for company, she's finding it difficult to adjust to strange surroundings. When her mother is out one day, a workman comes by to fix the bathroom sink. This sets off a weird chain of events...her mother disappears, the even more eccentric neighbour, Lady Roslyn becomes Hyacinths' sole source of support and inspiration in the search for her mum and, somehow, it turns out that Hyacinth has unleashed a magically charged drop of water that threatens to create worldwide chaos and destruction. So, into the sewers below London they go, chasing the drop along with a cast of the most bizarre characters imaginable; the Saltpetre Men, responsible for her mothers' disappearance, the Toshers - collectors in the sewers who battle over possession of magical artifacts, a strange orphan boy with absolutely no memory of anything and a giant pig with a talent for making tea. Hyacinth has 24 hours to figure everything out, retrieve the drop of water and free her mother....
This is a rollicking, madcap, intriguing tale that demands the reader suspend their disbelief, buckle up and prepare for a bumpy ride. Fortunately, this is not difficult. Zany though it may be, the world-building here is so cleverly constructed that it is totally believable and consuming. The pacing is rapid-fire and accurate. The many twists are turns lead the reader on a magical tour through the depths of the sewers and through history. And the characters are simply wonderful. Hyacinth is bold and brash, seeking rationality in a world where there is none with clear thought and imagination. It has been a long time since I have a read a fantasy that is this ingenious, intelligent and compelling. Add to that the sheer hilarity of the story and I can't wait for the sequels! (First in a trilogy) Fantastic!

THE ISLAND AT THE END OF EVERYTHING
author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Chicken House (4 April 2017)
ISBN: 9781910002766
Ami was born on Culion. She has lived there with her mother all her life. Culion is an island for people with leprosy; alone and isolated at what seems to be the end of the world and her mother is one of its' victims. It's lush forests and deep blue seas, and her mothers' love and care, have given Ami an ideal life. But that all changes with the arrival of a malicious government official, Mr. Zamora. A strange man, he comes with a vicious passion for butterfly collecting and a plan that changes Ami's world forever... all the uninfected are to be sent away. Ami now faces life in an orphanage under the watchful eye of Zamora, like one of his butterflies. Ami must return to Culion before her mother dies, looking to the butterflies to lead her home.
 Absolutely everything about this book shines. The writing is beautiful, poetic and evocative. The story ebbs and flows like the tides surrounding Culion with a rhythm that is sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh. The characters are exquisitely drawn and complex; neither simply good or bad and the interaction between them is genuine. The coherence between the natural world and human nature is delicate and textural, and the reader does get a subtle clue about the interlocking nature of the two. Plot twists and turns are plentiful, but this does not lead to a tale that is overly complicated or hard to follow. Clear and straight-forward storytelling leads the reader through the book and you find yourself, sadly, at the end before you realise it. So...you read it again and discover there is another layer to be unveiled. But apart from all that, it is a story of family and friendship and figuring life out. It is a story of nature and butterflies and beauty. It is compelling, exciting, joyous and heart-breaking. It is wholly unusual and utterly human. And it is one that will stick with you...one you will return to again and again.

RIDING OUT THE HURRICANE
author: Maeve McMahon
a little book company (2010)
ISBN: 9781906077068
Jade Williams is an ordinary 12-year-old girl living with her grandmother in New Orleans poorer quarters in 2005. She is kind, caring, sometimes stroppy and busy with school and her friends. On August 29, her world is ripped apart when Hurricane Katrina hits the city, destroying the city and leaving incredible tragedy in its' wake. Jade, her grandmother and their elderly neighbour, Mary Lou, survive by climbing onto the roof.  Jade must find the inner strength to survive and protect her grandmother, Mary Lou and the little dog, Bunty, she rescues from a bridge during the aftermath. But the journey to safety takes Jade places she never thought she'd go. And 'home' becomes a foreign land that she may never see again.
McMahon gives us a vivid, dramatic picture of the aftermath of one of the most pivotal environmental events in recent history as seen through the eyes of a young survivor. With an accurate, genuine voice, the story is told with compassion, gently giving insight into the traumatic situations faced by thousands of children at the time. Jade is a believable character and her inner thoughts, fears and frustrations pull the reader into her life, riveting us to the page. This detailed account of the devastation and determination of the human spirit is expressed in clear language and storytelling, relaying an exceptional tale of faith and human endurance at a time when it is easy to lose all hope, to give up. And yet, there is humour and light-heartedness, which makes this book a compelling and, ultimately uplifting read with much to think about. McMahon was living and working in New Orleans at the time, and her experiences there add an insight that one could not possibly express without having lived through it. Winner of the Nautilus Award, Riding Out The Hurricane tackles big issues, such as racism, displacement, poverty and environmental catastrophe in an accessible way, as well as being a beautiful read. Ages 10+
( Sadly, a little book company is no longer in business. The book is available through the author or numerous Irish bookshops.) 

DRAGON'S GREEN (WORLDQUAKE BOOK 1)
author: Scarlett Thomas
Canongate Books (April 2017)
ISBN: 9781782117025
Effie Truelove, student at Tusitala School for the Gifted, is late for school, again and her wicked English teacher accepts no excuses. Not even the fact that her grandfather has been brutally attacked and is languishing in hospital. Effie has promised to protect his vast library of magical books for him. But her father has sold them all to nefarious book-collector, Leonard Levar...all but one, Dragon's Green. As she falls asleep reading the book, Effie finds herself pulled into a magical realm of which she has no knowledge; one that holds her true inheritance. She must travel through the Otherworld and brave the secret organisation, the Diberi who's plans threaten the existence of everything. A daunting task, but Effie is not alone. Her new school friends are fighting with her as they, too, discover their new found powers. Together, they discover what it truly means to be 'lost in a book.'
This is Scarlett Thomas' first foray into the world of childrens' fantasy books, and it is marvelous! She clearly understands the impact of world-building and its' affect on the process of story construction. The world she has created is textural, carefully sculpted out of dreams, hopes and fears and a love of books. As the reader journeys through the tale, there is a balance of queries and solutions, logic and instinct, the hidden and the revealed. And each 'reveal' seems to pose another aspect to be uncovered. The story does wobble a bit from time to time, but it pulls itself back nicely and invites the reader forward. Her characters and relationships are strong and well-presented. Effie is a heroine who grows throughout the story, despite her confusion and lack of knowledge. She thinks fast on her feet, showing intelligence and empathy. This is not a perfect book, but it is enjoyable and compelling. It is a remarkable testament to the power of the book and the importance of, not just reading, but readers. I love the notion of the 'last reader', and the evocation of every reader changing a story each time it is read. While being plumped as a YA novel, I'd have to disagree. I'd recommend it for fantasy fans aged 10+. It is absolutely magical.

FROGKISSER
author: Garth Nix
Picadilly Press (28 February 2017)
ISBN: 9781848126015
Princess Anya longs to be a sorcerer and can think of nothing better than spending her days engrossed in study. She DOES NOT want to go on a quest to defeat her evil stepstepfather (no, it's not a misspelling), Duke Rikard and restore proper order to the land. She definitely does not want to spend her time kissing frogs. But, that's the way it is, so off she goes with her loyal dog, across the land. Her quest involves retrieving ingredients to make a magical lip balm and finding the right frog to kiss so her older sister can have her prince. But....which frog is it? As it turns out, there are many frogs to kiss, and other creatures that need to be restored as well before justice and law can be reinstated and the Duke defeated. And, there is no guarantee Princess Anya will ever be able to realise own her dream. 
Frogkisser is a marvelous contemporary take on the fairytale/fantasy genre with colourful characters, quirky humour and suspense enough to pull the reader along across a varied and fascinating landscape. Princess Anya shines as a heroine with depth of character, inner conflicts, a genuine, relatable voice and a bold, quizzical approach to life. Her perspective changes and grows with her quest. She is open to learning as much about the world and herself as she can. With many morals and social themes scattered in the pages, the light-hearted take on these guarantees that this does not bog down the reader with unnecessary detail and information. It is a joyous read. Nix is an adept storyteller, able to weave plot twists and surprises into the tale with ease and aplomb. His world-building is unparalleled among fantasy writers, creating a world here that bends and fits to his purpose. The texture and nuance is remarkable. Nix has no issue demonstrating the difficulty of the quest and paints it with great texture and nuance, showing struggle, uncertainty and, yet, humour and ridiculousness, as well. The physical book itself is beautiful! It has the look of a vintage collectible volume and is a joy to hold and look at. It is the complete package. In the end, Frogkisser is a completely delightful read; one to be enjoyed by all ages. If you liked The Princess Bride, you'll love this one. Simply superb!
 http://www.garthnix.com/

THE WHITE TOWER
author: Cathryn Constable
Chicken House (5 January 2017)
ISBN: 9781909489103
Livy is struggling with a lot of changes in her life recently. Her best friend died and she is filled with grief. Her father has a new job as librarian for the prestigious Temple College, which means moving to a new (very old) house with a creepy history. And Livy has been given a place in the school; which makes her feel even more isolated and different. She comes home everyday to seek refuge in her attic bedroom, overlooking the towers and domes of the school. While it gives her some peace and quiet, Livy is hypnotically drawn to the statues on the rooftop and climbs out to discover they are perhaps a bit more than mere statues. There appears to be some strange connection with her family and Temple College, but will it help Livy deal with her loss?
A mesmerising tale set firmly in the present, The White Tower journeys into the past with wonderful characterisation and a considered unfurling of the mysteries surrounding old scientific experiments create an atmosphere of magic. It has an old-fashioned thriller/adventure quality, while maintaining a sense of a family drama. The present story is infused with the enigmatic past. Day-to-day life at school with all the typical concerns Livy faces (feeling different, fitting in, gossip and rumour, making new friends while grieving the old) is nicely placed alongside her evocative night-time wanderings across the rooftop and towers of the old school where ghosts stalk her movements and egg her on. A dream-like, eerie quality is infused throughout the book. While some of the links between the past and present, the motives of the former librarian and Livy, her family, how they came to be at the school remain a bit vague, it makes for a fascinating read that will haunt you for a long time. 

SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS
author: Jack Cheng
Puffin (2nd March 2017)
ISBN: 9780141365602
11-year-old Alex lives alone with his troubled mother after losing his father and his older brother moving to LA for work. While his home life may be turbulent, Alex has big dreams...and he's about to make them happen! Patterning himself off his hero, Carl Sagan, Alex is going to send his iPod into space with a series of audio recordings to show interstellar lifeforms what his life on Earth is all about. He takes himself off on an impromptu road trip across the southwest US to a prestigious Space festival in a bed to launch his homemade rocket, complete with iPod, into the cosmos. Along the way, Alex meets many new and strange characters, all of whom help him on his way and help him return home. He even ends up with a sister he didn't know he had. When the journey ends, a new one begins...one filled with difficulties, but great hope.
A poignant, warm, heart-felt novel, See You In The Cosmos is one you won't soon forget. Alex is  incredibly intelligent, obsessed with science and determined. But he also is quite naive and vulnerable to the world. He's a character that seems to bring out the best in everyone he comes across. His straight-forward, refreshing voice coupled with the narrative he places on his iPod tell the story with a unique perspective. Far from being simply about a road-trip, this is a life story; a story about friendship, family, overcoming difficulty and creating understanding. Filled with a special sort of real-life magic, it will definitely change your point of view.

JAKE ATLAS AND THE TOMB OF THE EMERALD SNAKE
author: Rob Lloyd Jones
Walker Books (5 January 2017)
ISBN: 9781406361445
For Jake and Pandora (Pan) Atlas, it was meant to be an exciting family holiday while their University professor parents attended seminars and lectures in Cairo. At least, that's what they thought. But while Pan is busy hiding her genius behind her headphones; Jake, who is always in trouble of the most extreme kind, can't help but notice that strange things are happening even before they get on the plane. Their parents mysteriously vanish the very night they arrive in Egypt, apparently taken hostage by a secret and lethal society. Jake and Pan find themselves teaming up with some pretty shady treasure hunters, learning to master high-tech gadgets and searching for a long lost Egyptian tomb in a bid to save their parents from being turned into mummies.
A carefully considered plot and well developed characters give us an action-packed, high-octane adventure. Think Indiana Jones meets James Bond meets Mission Impossible and you'll know what I mean. It is fast-paced, daring and filled with action and surprise. The twins relationship is a brilliant brother-sister dialogue and in the end, they prove themselves to be truly two sides of the same coin. Nothing is quite what it seems here. Wonderful escapism and a fabulous story that leaves you wanting more. I can't recommend Jake Atlas  highly enough.

THERE MAY BE A CASTLE
author: Piers Torday
Quercus Childrens Books (6 October 2016)
ISBN: 9781848668621
Eleven- year-old Mouse is travelling to his grandparents house on Christmas Eve. But the snow is falling fast and heavy and visibility is very poor. The once familiar road is strange and alien; and now completely covered in a blanket of white. The car goes off the road and crashes, trapping his two sisters and mother inside. Mouse has been thrown clear. When he awakes, the world is not the world he knew. He meets a sheep named Bar that can only say Baaa and a sarcastic, willful horse named Nonky who seems strangely familiar. They begin a quest to find a castle of wonder, entering a world of monsters, mysterious wizards and more danger than Mouse could imagine. But why are they looking for a castle? As the quest moves on, it becomes clear that it has something to do with the family he left behind in  the freezing weather, helpless unless Mouse can come to their rescue.
Piers Tordays' narrative spins a remarkable yarn of love, death, resilience and memory. It is a testament to the power of stories to change the way we see the world. The characterisation and plot ring true, and are easily relatable. Mouses' journey proves he is more than just his small size and the limits of his physical stature. The real central character of this story is Mouses' imagination; his ability to make his way in this world through a rapidly changing environment and many deep perils; his ability to think on his feet. On this surface, this is a simple, easy-to-follow adventure filled with the exploration of typical childhood iconography, but there are deep underlying themes. As the reader journeys across an icy, danger-filled landscape, they are actually exploring the emotional landscape of childhood and of growing up. Family life, inner strength, understanding ones' own self - both gifts and deficits shine through with an unusual clarity the reads easily. Dynamic, heartbreaking and insightful, it is still filled with humour and quirkiness that is reminiscent of Roald Dahl. While the more sensitive readers may find the ending emotional, this is a unique and magical tale that speaks of the triumph of one small boy. Fantastical and utterly mesmerising, this is a 'Christmas' story that will stay with you throughout the year...and over many of them.

MAYBE A FOX
authors: Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
Walker Books (3 November 2016)
ISBN: 9781406372892
Jules and Sylvie are more than sisters. More than best friends. It is as if they are two parts of the same person, living with their father in a quiet, wooden area. Jules' favourite thing is collecting rocks, especially wish rocks, which they throw into the river for their wishes to come true. But Sylvies' favourite thing is running. And she is so, so fast. One winters morning, she runs. She runs too fast to the most dangerous part of the river to throw in a wish rock and she runs so fast that no one sees what happens. Sylvie disappears and no one knows why or how. At  that very moment, in another part of the river, a shadow fox is born. Part fox, part spirit animal, she is fast, too...and she senses danger. When, one morning, Jules goes to the river to throw in one last wish rock for her disappeared sister, the fox world and human world meet up, with a very unexpected aftermath....for everyone.
A beautiful, beautiful book which is captivating and evocative. This takes us into the world of one familys' grief and expectations. The relationship between the sisters and how it bleeds out into the small community surrounding it is expressed in simple, yet stirring terms as we journey with Jules through the world after her sister vanishes. It holds us in that journey as understanding and realisation develops. It offers a unique portrait into the lives,  world view and thought patterns of all the animal residents in the nearby woods come to the forefront of this amazing tale. Written so that we see more, feel more and hope more, despite ourselves. The intricacy of the plot belies the simplicity of the story-telling. Maybe a Fox has a long-lasting and profound affect on the reader. Patient and compelling, with poetic language and vivid descriptions, while there is much sorrow, it is also a story that is quietly triumphant and filled with hope. Simply wonderful!

THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL
author: Megan Shepherd  illustrator: Levi Pinfold
Walker Books (13 October 2016)
ISBN: 9781406367584
It is December 1941 and Emmaline is one of about 20 children evacuated to Briar Hill Hospital to escape the bombing in London and receive treatment for the stillwaters, as tuberculosis is called. Emmalines' companions there a few; Sister Constance, Sister Mary Grace, Thomas, the caretaker and Dr. Turner, who comes to dispense medication and give medical care for the children. Then, the are the animals. Though seldom let to go outside, she loves the dog, Bog, and the sheep and the chickens. But a surprise discovery gives meaning to her existence...living in the mirrors, there are magical winged horses; horse only she can see and she draws them with increasing fascination and loving care. One day, Emmaline finds a winged horse has escaped into the sundial garden. She begins to receive letters from the Horse King begging her to keep Foxfire safe from the Black Horse, who hunts by moonlight. The Black Horse has only one weakness...colour. Emmaline must load the sundial garden with vivid, brilliant colour....but where will she find colour in a land ravaged by war and sickness?
Written in a classic style, with beautiful turn of phrase and a carefully crafted plot line, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is sweet, compelling and utterly spell-binding. All the characters are meticulously drawn with genuine voices. Emmaline grows and blooms as the story progresses, giving the reader a strong and believable heroine that takes them on a compelling journey through the tale. It is magic of the best kind, the most certain kind. Pinfolds' magnificent illustrations are woven throughout the text, adding to the drama and charm of this compelling read. Each one is a beautiful work of art worthy of framing...but resist the urge. Reading this, other great childrens' books immediately came to mind, such as Charlotte's Web, The Last Unicorn, The Secret Garden and even Five Children and It; such is its' ability to draw the reader in and hold them firmly within the story. While the story itself is a somber one, there is gentle humour and some light-hearted moments which drive it well away from becoming morose. The finale is left open-ended, so that the readers' imagination plays a key role in making this extraordinary book personal and memorable. It is wonderful to find a book that ticks all the boxes in childrens' literature, as this one does! Timeless and timely, exquisite writing and illustration, this novel for ages 9+ gives the reader much to think about while exploring a wonder-filled landscape of both reality and imagination.

THE SECRET OF NIGHTINGALE WOOD
author: Lucy Strange
Chicken House Books (October 2016)
ISBN: 9781910655030
Shaken by the untimely death of her older brother, Henriettas' (Henry) family moves to the countryside. But Mama is ill, and seems to be getting worse. Father is away on business and Nanny Jane is too busy. Henry is left alone, with only the characters in her books and her seemingly vivid imagination for company. But are these strange fancies and imaginings so far fetched? One night, Henry seizes her courage, follows the flickering fire-light and ventures into the woods surrounding Hope House. The she meets Moth, a strange, witch-like woman. Moth encourages Henry to fight for her family, follow her imagination and save Mama from the clutches of the interfering Dr. Hardy. That one night, Henry's whole world changes...
A beautifully written debut novel. Henry is a marvellous character. Her surrounding environment and her situation is written with such detail and exactness that the reader enters into her life and believes every action, every emotion. There is a touch of such childrens' classics as The Secret Garden, Goodnight Mr Tom and timeless fairy tales. And these books and stories are acknowledged throughout as Henrys' inspiration and motivation. This shapes a story that is something really quite superb, without a false note throughout. Compelling, consuming and exceptional, The Secret of Nightingale Wood is a book to get lost in.

HENRY AND THE GUARDIANS OF THE LOST
author: Jenny Nimmo
Egmont (September 2016)
ISBN: 9781405280877
Henry Yewtree lives with his Aunt Pearl and a terrible secret. Henry is twelve years old. Yet he hasn't grown an inch since he arrived there. From 100 years ago. Henry had been playing in his former home, when a mysterious marble rolled out of nowhere. He picked it up and gazed into it and was instantly transported. Now, in the future, Henrys' life is at stake. A bright yellow letter is delivered to his Aunt Pearl one Saturday, and suddenly, they are both on the run. His secret has put them in danger! Left in a strange town called Timeless, he is rescued by a group of very unusual folk who seem to know a lot more about his secret than Henry does.
From the author of the wonderful Charlie Bone series comes this wonderful spin-off. Jenny Nimmo has built a world where time stands still, being tiny does not mean you are powerless and, in order to survive, you must be clever, determined and believe in the impossible. A consuming fantasy for ages 9+, Henrys' plight also addresses many circumstances faced in our day-to-day world...friendship, prejudice, and refugee issues. The story contains much that is complex and illusive, yet it does so in a clear, concise and easy manner. To top it off, it is a completely enjoyable read; one the reader will get lost in and want to return to again and again. With exciting dialogue, a fast-paced plot line and sympathetic characters that the reader will want to take out of the book with them, this book shines! Simply great.

COGHEART
author: Peter Bunzl
Usborne Publishing (1 September 2016)
ISBN: 9781474915000
13-year-old Lily Hartman has been sent to Miss Octavia Scrimshaws' Finishing School for Young Ladies after having frustrating a number of governesses employed by her inventor father. Housed in this remote cluster of red-brick buildings, where no one asks questions about her, Lily is not happy. She longs for the life of an air-pirate, not lessons in posture, manners and conversational French. Lily has made no friends there, apart from the clock-work staff. Lily does not want to be there! Her wish is sadly granted after her father disappears following a zeppelin crash and her current governess, Madame Verdigris appears to remove her. With Verdigris threatening to sell off all her fathers' property, including the mechanical staff that Lily has known all her life, Lily finds herself on the run with her fathers' faithful clockwork fox, Malkin. Determined to uncover the truth behind her fathers' disappearance, she enlists the help of Robert, a clock-makers' son. Hiding from a strange and mystery army of shadowy creatures, they escape arson attacks, murder and treachery to find aid in the form of a salvage scavenger on board the airship, Ladybird. Their adventure leads them to the smoky landscape of Victorian London, and a shocking secret invention that will change Lilys' life forever.
Prepare yourselves for a thrilling, enthralling steam-punk adventure with a badly-behaved heroine that you will remember forever. The plot of Cogheart is truly ingenious.

THE CROOKED SIXPENCE (THE UNCOMMONERS)
author: Jennifer Bell
Corgi Childrens (June 2016)
ISBN: 9780552572507
Grandmother Sylvie has been rushed to hospital and Ivy Sparrow and her brother Seb cannot locate their parents. On returning to Sylvies' house, they find it has been completely ransacked by a band of unknown intruders. A strange feather begins to scratch mysterious, threatening messages on the wall, a strange policeman turns up to apprehend them with a toilet brush and Ivy and Seb just barely escape, only to find themselves thrown into a completely uncommon world that exists somewhere beneath our own...Lundinor. But the danger doesn't stop there, They are still being pursued by a very odd police force, ordinary, everyday objects have powerful magical properties and their is a strange family secret afoot that they must solve. But first, they have to find a way to get Grandma Sylvie to remember exactly who she is.
I think I may have found my new favourite fantasy adventure. With remarkable world-building and brilliant characterisation, and fabulous writing (full stop) The Uncommoners make for a thoroughly delightful, exciting and spell-binding read. Ivy and Seb are a completely believable sister-brother duo. Their bewilderment and their situation and exasperation with each other are palpable. The brilliant anti-hero and thief, Valian Kaye is remarkable and charming in every way. And the idea that, hidden amongst the everyday items of our lives, toilet brushes, belts, bars of soap are a few that, well, aren't quite so ordinary is written such that the reader may start looking around the house trying to find 'uncommon' objects. Wonderfully weird, brilliantly quirky and a fantastic mystery read that make you want to keep returning to Lundinor. I completely loved it...and so will you.

STRANGE STAR
author: Emma Carroll
Faber & Faber (July 2016)
ISBN: 9780571317653
In June 1816, the weather
Inspired by the creation of the story Frankenstein, Carroll sends us on a rich journey through 1816 and the events of that time. The inclusion of historical facts; the comet in the sky, the real characters and description of places; add a very real, believable texture that blends perfectly with the imaginative fiction and gives a novel that is utterly fascinating and impossible to put down. The characters are expertly drawn, and through their eyes and voices, you are there, well and truly part of the unfolding drama. These are characters the reader immediately cares about, is drawn to and reacts to in the most personal way. It is very Gothic; frightening and absorbing. But never so frightening as to overcome it's intended readership (10+). At it's utmost, this is a story about prejudice, consideration and showing acceptance. The issues of racism, feminism and the danger of blind ambition all woven into the story with seamless dexterity. Strange Star not only offers a thrilling story, but it allows the reader to think without overburdening. Beautiful historical fantasy...simply beautiful, as are all Emma Carrolls' books.
 https://emmacarrollauthor.wordpress.com/

A LIBRARY OF LEMONS
author: Jo Cotteril
Piccadilly Press (May 2016)
ISBN: 9781848125117
Calypsos' mother passed away five years ago. Her  father, an editor and writer, spends his days in his private library working on his book, A History of the Lemon. And Calypso can usually be found with her head buried in a book. But then a new girl, Mae joins her class. Mae loves books and writing stories as much as Calypso. It isn't easy for Calypso to share her world, but the two girls develop a close, special friendship. As her father becomes increasingly distant, encouraging Calypso to 'find her inner strength', Calypso spends more of her time with Maes' busy, lively, noisy family. One day, as she and Mae enter her fathers' library in search of her mothers' wonderful collection of books, Calypso discovers a heart-breaking secret hidden there and realises that something is very, very wrong.
Beautifully written, without being sentimental or sensationalised, A Library of Lemons highlights the lives of young carers and gives a true portrait of grief and mental illness. It demonstrates the power of loss, loneliness, friendship and hope with a strong, true voice in a very gentle, yet realistic manner. Emotions ring true throughout, and the reader can easily see themselves as part of the story; it really does become less story and more actual events. The friendship between the two girls, the impact of others in a lonely, yet determined young girls' life and the way her view of life and what is 'normal' changes with subtlety and dexterity. There is also great joy and quiet humour within the pages. And the love of books, literature and the overt intelligence of these two main characters ring from every page.  In an ending that is poignant and true to life, there isn't a 'happily ever-after', but there is hope, relief, recovery and the promise of something better on its' way. An absolutely beautiful novel for young teenage readers.
https://jocotterill.com/ 

WOLF HOLLOW
author: Lauren Wolk
Corgi Childrens (30 June 2016)
ISBN: 9780552574297
Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow, a small town in the Pennsylvania mountains all her young life. It is a quiet place, almost idyllic if it were not for the scars it still bears from the part two world wars; a close-knit community with it's one room school house and simple, earnest life-style. But when Betty moves to town with her cruel, manipulative ways, Annabelles' peace is shattered and everything she has learned about right and wrong are called into question. Betty is a bully, and Annabelle, her younger brothers and, ultimately, Toby, the itinerant drifter living in the abandoned smokehouse, become her targets. When Betty disappears, suspicion is cast immediately on Toby and Wolf Hollow rallies against him. Annabelle decides to do whatever she must to protect Toby and find Betty before it's too late.
Wolf Hollow is simply unforgettable. It's well-drawn characters and description of place draw the reader into the world echoed in the pages and allow you to sit there. But it is an uneasy place to be. There are characters throughout that grasp at the heart and mind....these are people you know, people you see everyday; but do you really see them. A portrait of a time not that long gone, the reader is filled with the sense of the place; the mountains, the trees, Annabelle and her family, the voices of the children, the barking of the dogs. Poignant and powerful, it shows how one person can knock an entire life off balance, how easily people can succumb to assumption and prejudice and how difficult it is to do what you know is right. And, yes, it's written for children (10 +). With echoes of the great To Kill A Mockingbird, it the reader to really think about things, to really consider yourself and your place in society. It gives an insight that is desperately needed in these times. Touching, quiet and profound, it wraps itself around you and you will see things rather differently after reading. Highky recommended.
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ARCHIE GREENE AND THE ALCHEMISTS CURSE
author:D.D. Everest
Faber & Faber (June 2016)
ISBN: 9780571307418
Archie Greene's world changed drastically when he discovered he was a Flame Keeper - a guardian of magical books. Now living in Oxford with his Aunt, Uncle and cousins, magic is part of his everyday life. Now, at the Museum of Magical Miscellany, Archies' younger cousin, Thistle is about to start his apprenticeship. During his initiation, Thistle receives a very strange firemark brand. Stranger still, the same mark appears on Archie and Bramble, as well. The Golden Circle is the mark of the ancient Alchemists Club, a group of young alchemists who disappeared at the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666. Their disappearance was marked by a curse...a curse that now threatens the Museum, and indeed Archies' entire magical world. As more and more apprentices appear with the Golden Circle mark, it seems they have no choice but to reform the Alchemists Club. But with the Magical Book Fayre at the Museum, there also arrives a series of mishaps, accidents and dramatic, dark influences effecting protection of the magical world. Can this new, and somewhat uneasy alliance of young, inexperienced friends uncover the source of the curse but it destroys everything in its' wake?
Full of wit, mystery and adventure, the second installment of this wonderful new series is even more fantastic than the first. Everest continues to build an intriguing world filled with wonder and a magical quality that grips the reader, keeps them guessing and pulls them through the story in a raucous, exhilarating ride. Archies' character continues to develop and deepen, lending a truly believable quality, as do the others. Books emerge as characters themselves, and are pivotal to the story. They are alive and integral. (Even if you are an ardent bibliophile, you will never look at the in quite the same way, again.) Throughout, there is a sense of not everything being quite what it seems. The writing is exceptional; the word play and interspersing of actual history, myth and literature is fascinating and tangible.  And it is exciting! A fast-paced, consuming read that will leave you wanting more. I absolutely recommend Archie Greene! 
Also, if you haven't read the first, Archie Greene and the Magicians Secret, please do so now! (For ages 10+)
http://ddeverest.com/

FENN HALFLIN AND THE FEARZERO
author: Francesca Armour-Chelu
Walker Books (June 2016)
ISBN: 9781406363128
The world is ravaged by flooding, dirty, polluted toxic waters everywhere that has made land a rare phenomenon. Into this world was born Fenn; raised in secrecy but the gruff, grumpy and protective old Halflin to exist on scavaging the wrecked ships that come their way in the boglands. But when Fenn discovers the truth about his past, that he is the last of the true Seaborn and a threat to the Terra Firma and their ruthless leader, Chilstone, his life takes a dangerous turn. Seeking shelter in the overcrowded Shanties (that threatened to tumble into the sea at any moment), Fenn is taken in by child survivors in hiding. Chilstone appears in his ship, the dreaded Fearzero and Fenn must rise to a new challenge beyond mere survival. He must face his destiny as a true Seaborn in a stand-off between good and evil and save a sinking world while all his hopes of escape into a better life seem to drift away.
A fast-paced, chilling, well-written, this is one of the best fantasy (dystopian) adventures I have read in a long time. While it addresses issues such as global warming, environmental disaster, greed, migration and prejudice, it does so with an incredible, exciting adventure story that never lets up. The well-drawn characters ring true with genuine feeling and consideration. The descriptive passages do not linger too long, but they pack maximum impact and give a textural sense of time, place and action. Nothing here is two-dimensional. You can see it, feel it all.  Well done! The first of a two part story, I can't wait for the next installment.

THE GIRL OF INK AND STARS
author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Chicken House (May 2016)
ISBN: 9781910002742
Isabella lives in the land of Joya, an island from which she can never escape. She dreams of the foreign lands once mapped by her cartographer father in the times before Governor Adori arrived; of her mother and her twin brother, both lost to her now. Under strict regulations, she spends her life surrounding by beautifully detailed maps that hint at stories far beyond her reach. But when her friend, Lupe (the governors daughter) disappears, and another as been brutally killed by an unknown beast that attacks in the night, Isabella knows she must do something before they are all lost. Disguised as her brother, she ventures off on a dangerous journey into the lands beyond the wall; an dry and desolate wasteland where a fire demon stirs from its' sleep. Following a map drawn by her mother, Isabella must also follow ancient myth and her heart to save her life and the island itself.
Woven with all the magic of fairy tales and childhood memories, this novel is mesmerising. It is a tale of courage, magic and adventure. Isabella is a fierce and strong character, her instincts are bold and keen. The relationships with her father and her friend, Lupe, are held together by Isabellas' strong sense of loyalty and love, despite whatever differences exist. Intricately drawn, the entire story is pure magic itself and the reader is wrapped up in the maze-like journey, pulled through the landscape with real fascination in a way that allows you to believe every word of the story. The presentation of the book is simply perfect, each page illustrated with cartographic references that gives the physical book the feel of the journey, of movement as you weave through the tale with Isabella. Truly beautiful writing, magical, mythological and positively spell-binding; I can't recommend this highly enough. It is one to be read over and over, like all the best fairytales. (10+)

HOUR OF THE BEES
author: Lindsay Eager
Walker Books (March 2016)
ISBN: 9781406368154
Rather than spending the summer with her friends, Carol is forced to move to her grandfathers' deserted sheep ranch
A beautifully complex coming of age story, Hour of the Bees makes exceptional use of magical realism to explore relationships across generations; the things we hide and how we build own own histories. The lines between truth and fiction are gradually intermingled and turned inside-out so that the reader is left wondering which is real...or if they both are. Carol is a genuine, real voice and the relationships within her family ring true. Serge is a compelling figure as the grandfather; someone who is caught in the past and struggling with the present. As their relationship grows, we see there is genuine interest in each other, and love. A truly stunning debut novel that will stay with the reader for a very long time. Magic! (11+)

BROKEN HEART CLUB
author: Cathy Cassidy
Puffin (21 April 2016)
ISBN: 9780141371252
Andie, Eden, Ryan, Tasha and Hasmita have been been friends since they were tiny. Together, the form the Heart Club and make a vow to be best friends forever, to always be there for each other and to never let anything tear them apart. But things happen. Shortly after Andies' 11th birthday sleep-over, tragedy strikes. Now, two years later, they talk to each other...they barely see each other. Eden and Ryan are haunted by memories of that moment when everything went horribly wrong. They are both hurting and in trouble...and they need each other and the rest of the Heart Club. Andies' sudden reappearance in Edens' life causes her to rethink the past. Andie urges her to get the group back together again and to start by talking to Ryan. But can you really take back angry words? Can friendship last forever? What does it take to mend a broken heart when everyone seems to have moved on?
In a unique and poignant tale of friendship, Cathy Cassidy gives us another moving, heart-felt novel. With believable characters, each one with a truly genuine voice, the reader is taken through the lives of Ryan and Eden as they attempt to move beyond a tragic moment in life. The entire book rings true. With a strong attachment to each character and their part in the story, it's one of those books you will read in one sitting; emotional and compelling, filled with day to day drama and how little it means in the face of true difficulty, but how important the day to day still remains. Don't get me wrong; the story is funny and joyous at the same time as being deep and, in places shattering. You will need the tissues to hand, but you will also feel happy and affirmed. It's quite a trick to write a book that has both sides of the emotional coin and is still a joy to read. And Cathy brings this to the table with great finesse and experience. Genuine, evocative, light-hearted and moving, Broken Heart Club is a gift to its' readers. I loved it!
p.s. Check out the back of the book to find Cathy Cassidys' Paper Crane Project learn how to make origami paper cranes!
http://www.cathycassidy.com/

RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE
author: Kate DiCamillo
Walker Books (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781406363135

Raymie Clarkes’ whole life changed two days ago. Her father ran off with a dental hygienist. Her mother is caught up in this “great tragedy.” Now, absolutely everything depends on Raymie. But she has a plan. If she can do a few good deeds and learn to twirl a baton, she’ll win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition! Her father will see her in the paper and come home. First, she has to contend with her rivals. Louisiana Elefante has a show-business background and is airy, flighty and faints a lot. Beverly Tapinski is hard-edged, bossy and is determined to sabotage the competition. But loneliness and unanswered questions draw the three girls into an extraordinary team, the Three Rancheros! Each one has an important quest of their own, but if they band together, they will be unstoppable. However, they discover good deeds can easily go wrong, adventures turn into disasters and what is lost doesn’t always need to be found. Then one night, when everything seems darkest, Raymie Nightingale finds a strength she didn't know she had and becomes a real hero!

Based (a bit) on the real life of author Kate DiCamillo, this is an incredible story of loss and friendship, dreams and reality. Raymie Nightingale is thoughtful and adventurous. With strong characters and just the right amount of detail, DiCamillo paints a picture that will bloom and grow in your imagination. It will make you laugh, warm your heart and never let you down!
Kate DiCamillo is one of the most imaginative and authentic authors for young people today. All of her books are very different from each other. Each one is magnificent and she is truly an author that has a little something for each and every reader. She simply cannot write a bad book. I love Raymie Nightingale, and can also highly recommend The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Magician's Elephant and, of course, Because of Winn-Dixie....to name just a few of her magnificent books.

PAX
author: Sara Pennypacker
illustrated by Jon Klassen
HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (Febrauary 2016)
Peter rescued Pax when he was just a small kit, 7 weeks old or so. It is fair to say that Pax rescued Peter, as well. Since that day, the two have been inseparable. Now years later, all of that changes...the whole world changes. A great war is rumbling across the land. Peters' father has enlisted in the army. Peter must go to live with his grandfather....and Pax is left by the side of the road. But nothing will stop Peter returning to find Pax. Despite having to cross 300 miles alone, despite the oncoming war, Peter will find him. And Pax will steadfastly wait for his boy.
Deeply moving, profoundly affecting, Pax is a gentle, yet powerful tale of love, loyalty, sacrifice

THE MANY WORLDS OF ALBIE BRIGHT
author: Christopher Edge
Nosy Crow (January 2016)
ISBN: 9780857636041
After Albie Brights' mother dies, it is only natural for him to wonder where she has gone. Both his parents were scientists, so surely they would have the answer, but his father simply mumbles something about parallel universes. Albie takes it upon himself to research quantum physics. Now armed with a box, his mothers' computer,an old, rotting banana and an insatiable curiosity, Albie sends himself through time and space to find her. But traveling through alternate dimensions is not quite that straight forward. Albies' discoveries are truly extraordinary....
This is an amazing, wonder-filled novel that offers as many questions as answers.. Intelligent and genuine, ...Albie Bright is a book for the curious and the down-hearted. Humourous and lively, it also has a gentle quality that addresses grief, family life, friendship and so much more. The characters are priceless and as Albie travels from place to place, the reader is given a view of the possibilities that lie hidden in life. The worlds Edge has constructed are relayed with exceptional story-telling. It really touches the heart and excites the mind. More than that, it is FUN. Quirky, unusual, an exceptional read; I can't recommend this book highly enough. And, it's educational, too. In fact, it would be a wonderful recommendation to children whose reading is firmly rooted in non-fiction, as the exploration of science is superb. Christopher Edge and Nosy Crow have done it again! Ages 9-12 will love this...as will just about anyone who reads it.

FOXCRAFT: THE TAKEN
author: Inbali Iserles
Scholastic (October 2015)
ISBN: 9781407147123
A young fox, out at play, returns home to find her whole world has shattered when  her family has been taken; completely disappeared. Now Isla is on her own in a world filled with the heartless furless and other creatures that look upon foxes as vermin. She travels far and wide to find her family and in her journey encounters cruelty, hunger and neglect. But she gains a strength and cleverness she never knew she had. And she finds a society of shape-shifting foxes known as the Elders; and her own legacy as one of lifes' most despised animals. Her own growing skill in foxcraft,  skills and cunning known only to foxes, lead her in a journey of discovery and peril. But in the back of her mind always is the lingering question; what ever became of her family? And why is she tormented, even among her own kind?
Iserles is a brilliant writer with a knack for totally inhabiting the world of animals completely, as she has proved before in previous books The Tygrine Cat and The Bloodstone Bird. Here, she creates a story that is utterly mesmerising. Well-paced and considered, the reader is plunged into Isla's world and her journey of discovery with a tangible, yet mythic quality. This is not simply anthropomorphising of animals; you feel like a fox...see the world as a fox sees it. The writing and plot line remind of Watership Down and Tom McCaugherns' Run Wild series, but with a more contemporary twist. Stunning details, intriguing characters and a story line that will hook you at the word go, Foxcraft: The Taken is the first in a new series. Beautiful, magical and completely engrossing. Perfect for ages 8-12...and older readers as well.

THE ADVENTURES OF MISS PETITFOUR
author: Anne Michaels illustrator: Emma Block
Bloomsbury Childrens (November 2015)
ISBN: 9781408868040
Introducing the utterly charming Miss Petitfour! She loves baking (as her name might suggest), dancing with her sixteen cats and her friends and surrounding community. But, Miss Petitfour loves nothing more than to fly. All she has to do is grab her paisley tablecloth in one hand and the closet cat in the other and with the other cats dangling behind, off they all go on another adventure. In this book, there are five gentle adventures involving occasional (but not too drastic) peril, delicious food and warmth and humour that will delight and entertain any young girl. She flies off to visit Miss Collarwaller, the bookseller; sort out the jumbled-up disaster at the Jumble Sale; find the missing penny-black stamp...and more.
A truly enjoyable and warm debut childrens' book by poet Anne Michaels, this is a real "girl" book. Kind and gentle drama, it still gives a sense of self-sufficiency and being yourself. It is peppered with beautiful language, as it introduces many words (and explains their use) that are not typically used in young readers books, and does so in a way that thoroughly fits in with the story line. The narrative voice is wonderful; the characters are great fun and the scene descriptions are well-drawn, leaving the reader with a wonderful mental picture throughout. As I said, a "girl" book that will delight readers age 7 to 10, written with intelligence and imagination.

THE DOLDRUMS...a badly planned adventure
author: Nicholas Gannon
HarperCollins Childrens Books (October 2015)
ISBN: 9780008149390
Archer Helmsley has grown up in a house filled with curios and oddities. In fact, Archer appears to be a bit odd himself. Archer longs for adventure, like his grandparents, renowned explorers Ralph and Rachel Helmsley who disappeared on an iceberg during an expedition to the Antarctic. Since that time, his mother barely lets him leave the house. But along with his friends, Adelaide and Oliver, Archer concocts a plan that will set him on a whirl-wind adventure to rescue his grandparents involving parachutes, crocodiles, driving a teacher half-mad (by accident, really) and a lot of danger. And it's a great plan! Well, pretty good...not bad, anyway. Let's face it; nothing goes to plan and, of course, nothing involving Archers' family is quite what it appears.
What an incredible book! First of all, it's beautifully presented. Gannon's illustrations throughout the novel make it a thing of beauty, and they perfectly depict the life and adventure as it's story line builds. It is wonderfully and expressively written with heart and humour and has everything a proper adventure tale requires. he reader becomes completely entranced by the characters and their friendship and their mad plan. With flawless pacing, the writing guides you through the story, adding just the right amount of detailing to keep you invested, and to keep you guessing. Quirky, clever, in fact eccentric on every level , this is a charming, unique adventure story that never let's the reader down.You couldn't ask for more in a book! (ages 9=...and they'll love it for life!)


THE DREAMSNATCHER
author: Abi Elphinstone
Simon & Schuster (26 February 2014)
ISBN: 9781471122682
12-year-old Moll lives in the Ancientwood with Oak, leader of the camp, his wife, Mooshie and a gypsy clan filled full of community spirit. Moll was discovered by Oak and Moosie as a baby, alone in the woods with no one to watch over her apart for Gryff, a wildcat or so the story goes. One night, she wakes from a recurring nightmare to find herself in the middle of the woods, lured there by the drums, rattles and chatting that infects the nightmares. She discovers a deep, dark magic at work. The Dreamsnatcher is coming for her. He has taken her dreams and now he wants her life in order to bring the darkest of magic out and let it lose in the world. The ancient bone oracle has foretold that she is the only one who can stop the Dreamsnatchers' magic. With Gryff, her best friend Siddy and a mysterious ally, Alfie, Moll embarks on a dangerous and mysterious adventure to retrieve the ancient Amulets and put an end to the Dreamsnatcher....but will Moll be strong and courageous enough to survive?
Moll Pecksniff is a fabulous character who, on her journey, learns much about herself, her life and where she comes from. Bold and brash, she faces her fears head-on. The twists and turns in this tale lead the reader down a crooked path, indeed. And it is a fabulous journey. A vivid picture if painted of this gypsy world, with it's superstitions and customs and a tale of ancient magic leaps off the page with descriptions that engage all the senses. The cast of quirky characters and the suspense and drama make this one of the best, most magical books I've read in a long time. Is it scary? Oh yes! But it's the right kind of scary, reading like a nightmare that you can face, along with Moll, with all it's uncertainty and drama. It is a nightmare that you know you can navigate through and come out on the other side. Written with energy and a clear love of her characters and their world, I highly recommend The Dreamsnatcher. It is heart-warming and filled to the brim with magic and suspense.
 http://www.abielphinstone.com/books/4587834646

THE WOLF WILDER
author: Katherine Rundell
Bloomsbury (September 2015)
ISBN: 9789781408872352
Living in an isolated, snowbound woods in Russia, Feodora has grown up wild, with her mother and their nearest neighbours, the wolves. Her mother is a wolf-wilder; one who takes in pet wolves that the aristocracy has grown tired of and teaches them to be wild again. Feo has become wary of people, with their noise and guns and threatening behaviour. Shortly before the Russian revolution, the soldiers come and take her mother. Feo goes on the run with an unlikely fugitive friend and her wolves for companionship. Along the way, they meet others whose lives have been destroyed by the same evil general that took her mother. People who are angry and afraid, but are willing to fight back and help Feo. And a daring plan emerges to rescue her mother, save the wolves and take back control of their lives forever....
The Wolf Wilder is true magic. A compelling, moving story, beautifully written and totally original, it has the familiar feeling of an old Russian fairytale with a ring of truth. The characters and their relationships with one another have texture and depth. Feo herself is precisely the type of lead character you want to read; bold and genuine and filled with humanity and all it's frailties. The landscape is painted with such vibrant description that, in the minds of the reader, it becomes real. The presentation of this novel is exquisite, with illustrations throughout by Gelrev Ongbico that sing. All in all, The Wolf Wilder is a complete triumph; mesmerising, convincing and utterly magnificent.
(If you haven't yet read Rundell's other books, you really should. They are equally brilliant. Girl Savage (also published as Cartwheeling In Thunderstorms) and Rooftoppers. Rundell is a genius!)
 http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Katherine-Rundell/410789881
YOUNG SHERLOCK: NIGHT BREAK
author: Andrew Lane
Macmillan Childrens Books (10 September 2015)
ISBN: 9781509810895
Sherlock is called away from his studies at Oxford due to the untimely, but not altogether unexpected death of his mother. His father has disappeared in India. His sister, Emma is acting strange and secretive, having fallen in love with a man the Holmes' know nothing about. The family seems to be falling apart and Mycroft, now the head of the family, can do nothing about it. A mysterious midnight break-in and ransacking at the Holmes estate sets off a chain of events that plummets Sherlock into the heart of another deadly conundrum. Emmas' fiance vanishes inside his own home; the man's estranged brother disappears while working in Egypt and, as it turns out, the construction of the Suez Canal is at risk, along with the lives of those involved. Sherlock must align himself with the sinister Paradol Chamber to solve this mystery. As Mycroft withdraws to his office, it becomes obvious that he is more involved in this crisis than he is letting on. And young Sherlock comes to so devastating deductions about his own family and friends.

Night Break is a triumph! Faithful to the tone and demeanor of the original Conan Doyle series (as always), in this book we truly begin to see Sherlock emerging as the Sherlock Holmes we all know so well. A young, immature Sherlock is further broken and rebuilds. The psychological examination of cause and effect on his personality is as gripping as the story itself. His keen eye for detail and subtle, logical grasp of events are further developed and honed in a perfectly paced drama. As seemingly unrelated facets slide together seamlessly, they build an engrossing tale filled with tension and danger. And yet, it remains an easy, flowing and sophisticated read with a complex and elusive central character the reader will want to stick with through to the end. There is more to come for Sherlock, and personally, I can't wait. Young Sherlock: Night Break offers much, and it does not disappoint. Highly recommended (for ages 10+.)
http://youngsherlock.com/ 

FIRE GIRL
author: Matt Ralphs
Macmillan Childrens Books (August 2015)
ISBN: 9781447283553
Hazel has lived all 12 years of her life in the safety of an enchanted glade, protected from the cruelty and dangers of the outside world. But Hazel is desperate to venture outside; to meet new people and explore the world. More than anything else, she wants to be a witch, like her mother. At the time when her powers begin to emerge, Hazels' world changes drastically. Her mother is kidnapped by a hideous demon acting as servant to a powerful and corrupt with clan....and they are after Hazel, as well. She has no choice but to run. Determined to rescue her mother, Hazel and her dormouse familiar are thrust into the open world, where being a witch, once an honoured and trusted profession, is now looked upon with the utmost suspicion and fear. The Witch Hunters are everywhere. And Hazel must put her faith in a young apprentice, David, and his famous Witch Hunter master, Titus White to hunt down the demons and witches who are holding her mother. 
Written expertly with truly spine-tingly suspense in a richly textured world. It is frequently dark and sinister with vivid character development and descriptive elements that allow the readers' imagination to run wild with Hazel and Bramley, the dormouse. The landscape of 17th century England is alive with magic matched against some historical accuracies. The fast-pacing makes this read a real roller-coaster and, at times, the information and the drama comes a little too quickly for the reader to keep up. But, overall, for fans of fantasy and witches in particular, this is a compelling read that leaves you wanting more. Fortunately, there will be more to come. (I'd recommend this for ages 10 +)

MONUMENT 14
author: Emmy Laybourne
Hodder Children's Books (2013)
ISBN: 9781444914702
They were on their way to school one morning when the hailstorm hit; and it was bad. Fourteen kids find themselves trapped inside a superstore in the town of Monument with no help and no adult supervision. They can do whatever they want... and it is brilliant! At first... But everything the storm hit was damaged, cars and buildings damaged, the Network was gone; all contact with the outside is lost. A chemical plant has been destroyed and the air is tainted. Monument is being evacuated and the kids have no way of knowing that the world outside is gone.
Fast-paced, tense, gripping, Monument 14 is one of the best dystopian novels for young people. The story is told through the eyes of Dean, the genuine voice of a 16-year-old boy, just an ordinary kid who has worked very hard to keep himself under the radar; nothing special until this happens. He catalogs the events with a straight-forward and honest approach. The writing is fluid and easy; filled with tangible characters and situations. The relationships between the characters move and change as the story builds. The emotions become raw and trust-worthy to the reader. The people are real. You readily become involved, wrapped-up in the story and find yourself in that superstore with them. The thing about Monument 14 that makes it so accessible is that it seems totally plausible. We can see his happening in the not-too-distant future and it is frightening. The reader believes it; every word. Gutsy, brave and yet still compassionate, Monument 14 (and its' sequel books Sky On Fire and Savage Drift) are important reads for anyone who loves a good dystopian tale. Simply amazing. (12 years +)

NEST

Author: Esther Ehrlich
Rock The Boat/Oneworld Publications (2 July 2015)
ISBN: 9781780748092
Naomi Orenstein (called ‘Chirp’ due to her passion for bird-watching) and her family live in a cosy nest of a cottage on Cape Cod, surrounded by sand, sea and fresh air. Every spare moment she has, Chirp can be found exploring the salt marsh and watching for the elusive red-throated loon. When her beautiful dancer mother is diagnosed with a serious illness, everything changes and her family shows signs of strain. Home is no longer the carefree, joyous place she knew, so Chirp spends more and more time with her beloved birds, fascinated by their habits and their diversity and seeking comfort and freedom. She also finds an unexpected and true friend in Joey, the boy who lives across the road. His family has more than its fair share of trouble and Joey is seen as an outsider and a bit of a loner. But Chirps birds have taught her that not everything is what it seems. Together, she and Joey climb trees, scour the beach and uncover long forgotten buildings. They build their own world filled with discovery, wonder, adventure and escape from the disappointment and heart-ache surrounding them. Chirp and Joey want to see everything and go everywhere they can. Joey is always at Chirps side as her ally and protector. But Chirp can’t keep running forever. When one adventure goes a little too far, Joey steps up to prove the strength of his friendship. Sometimes you can’t build a new nest; sometimes you rebuild the one you have.

Nest explores the fragile bond of friendship between Chirp and Joey; two completely different characters, as well as the bonds between family members, juxtaposing these against the fragile, eloquent bonds that exist in the natural world. The descriptive quality of the text is tactile and rich, without over-burdening the story with unnecessary detail....rather it illuminates the book. As Chirp explores the salt marsh and forests around her home, she also explores her internal world, growing, grieving, coming to terms and learning joy and fearlessness. Apart from this, it is a wonderful adventure story, with echoes of such authors as Alice Hoffman and Katherine Rundell..Nest points out, in a subtle way, that children are not oblivious to the drama in the world, and that it, in fact, affects them deeply.  It is both thought-provoking and joyous, as Chirp and Joey wend their way through some of the most difficult of life's navigations at a delicate age. Dream-like, captivating, textural and simply beautiful, this is superbly written with wonderful, unforgettable characters…a story about healing, adventure and friendship that really touches the heart. Nest will stay with you always.


THE MYSTERY OF THE CLOCKWORK SPARROW
author: Katherine Woodfine
Egmont (June 2015)
ISBN: 9781405276177
Sophie Taylor has landed a job at the posh, elaborate Sinclair's Department Store. With her beloved father gone and left to make her own way in the world, she is well aware how fortunate she has been. But the evening before it's grand opening, one of Mr. Sinclairs' most precious display items, the famed Clockwork Sparrow is stolen...and Sophie finds herself accused of the theft. Her colleagues at work are gossiping about her, the manager will not believe she isn't involved and the police are, apparently, in league with one of London's most notorious criminal leaders. Sophie has only a few friends to help prove her innocence. Completely out of her depth, Sophie must rely on wit and cunning she never knew she had. 
A good old-fashioned 'who-dunnit' style mystery! In a Selfridges-meets-Sherlock Holmes' style novel, expert plot twists and sterling characterisation take the reader on a fascinating and gripping journey through Edwardian society. There are strong hints of Pullman's Sally Lockheart series (which I loved!). Sophie is a brilliant character; learning her own strength and determination in a world that expects little of her, short of failure and her companions populate a world that is palpable, textural and believable. A wonderful mystery packed with intrigue, vivid description and subtle humour; thoroughly enjoyable and wonderfully inspiring.

IN DARKLING WOOD
author: Emma Carroll 
Faber and Faber (July 2015)
ISBN: 9780571317578
When Alice's brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother's house in the middle of a cold and rainy night. Nell is harsh, strict and not at all welcoming to her only granddaughter. The house is cold and dark. Alice hates staying with Nell and even tries to run away to be with her mother and brother in the hospital, but she is quickly spirited back to the dank, depressing situation. No phone coverage so she can't speak to her only friend, attending school as an outsider in a small community, uncertain about her brother's fate, there's nothing good about staying with Nell. Nothing except the magical Darkling Wood at the end of her garden - but Nell is determined to have it all cut down, in spite of the numerous failed attempts and reluctant workmen. Alice feels at home there, finally at peace, and even finds a funny, adventurous friend, Flo. But Flo doesn't seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood. Far too old to believe in the existence of fairies, Alice is baffled by what her own eyes reveal. Alice starts to wonder, what is real?  And what exactly is the secret that Flo carries with her? And can Alice find out in time to save the wood from destruction?
Evocative description creates a background, upon which a modern fairy-tale unfolds. With a real flair for story-weaving, Carroll has created a beautiful tale of the deep bonds of family and the power of belief (or not.) The characters sing with realism and a nod back to modern history (in the form of WW1 letters between a sister and her brother at the front) lead to suspense, clarity and understanding. An incisive mystery as well as a loving look at family secrets, this is a novel you will not be able to put down. An exquisite cover illustration adds to the charm of this must read for those who love fairies, deep dark woods and genuinely magical writing.
 

THE LIE TREE
author: Frances Hardinge
Macmillan Childrens Books (7 May 2015)
ISBN: 9781447264101
Faiths' family takes an arduous journey to a small, remote island for her father, renowned natural scientists Reverend Eramus Sunderly to assist with an excavation and to escape a scandal about to break on the mainland. Faith is much like her father; quick-witted and inquisitive, in a time when it does not bode well for girls to be anything other them obedient and servile. When news of the scandal finally reaches Vane Island, the inhabitants are quick to isolate the family. But when her father dies suddenly and the truth seems to elude the authorities, Faiths' curious nature soon uncovers what really happened to her father and what he was actually hiding.
Frances Hardinge is a master at world building. Here, she explores Victorian mores and virtues, and in particular, the attitude towards women. Told in an 1860s setting, The Lie Tree explores issues of belief vs rational thinking, faith vs reason and the mysteries of nature. This is all wondrously executed; atmospheric and eerie in the use of description and perfection time and place setting. The story is quite gothic in its' telling, while maintaining a true sense of the Victorian era, its' social structure and its' fascination with cataloging and collecting. Each character is strong in their own right and the reader gets a very real sense of the personality and traits of each person. Faith is a remarkable heroine; a contemporary young woman locked in a restrictive society, wily and clever, but one who questions her own motivations and her own sense of right and wrong. But perhaps the most intriguing 'character' is the Lie Tree itself. An unusual specimen, it holds the key to revealing the truth, but only if it is fed enough lies and kept in complete darkness. This creates a remarkable dialogue within the tale about the nature of truth and the nature of belief. Complex and well-woven, exquisite in its' use of language and the textures and depth of its' descriptions and characterisations, The Lie Tree is one of the finest examples of historical fiction for young people, with a unique thread of mystery and fantasy flowing through the book. It flows seamlessly from one scene to the next, compelling the reader to turn the page. The Lie Tree places you firmly within the story and takes you away to another place and time. Thought-provoking, intelligent and utterly creative. An intriguing, stunning read for ages 12+.
CATHERINE CERTITUDE
author: Patrick Modiano
illustrator: Jean-Jacques Sempé
translator: William Rodarmor
Anderson Press (December 2014)
ISBN: 9781783443024
Catherine Certitude, a dance teacher in New York, recalls growing up in Paris with her gentle, daydreaming father, Georges, after her American mother returns home. She remembers the restaurant lunches, her mother’s letters, her father’s business partner, Casterade, and not quite understanding what it is her father does. But most of all, Catherine remembers her ballet classes, her friend, Odile, and how she and her father escape the ‘world as it is’ by taking off their glasses; how the world then becomes soft, gentle and time stops. She has questions that remain unanswered; why did her father change his name to Certitude; how did Casterade save her father from the law; and why did her mother move back without them? Catherine remembers things in images and snatches of conversation not fully understood, right up to the day they leave Paris behind to rejoin her mother.
Modiano engages the reader with his ability to capture childhood memory in all of its fragmented, shimmering, momentary existence. An elegant, warm little novel, its pacing is deliberate and thoughtful. Catherine’s voice is clear, genuine and filled with childishness, in the best possible connotation. There is understanding of the liminal, fragile, yet liberated state of childhood. The author never falters telling the story from this perspective, without adult embellishment. Sempes’s illustrations perfectly depict the text with delicate, jewel-like washes and wistful line work. Catherine Certitude will enchant any child or adult reader who loves Paris, ballet and childhood in general. A thing of beauty!
(This review is available online in Inis Magazine: http://www.childrensbooksireland.ie/node/514)
LOOKING-GLASS GIRL
author: Cathy Cassidy
Puffin Books (2 April 2015)
ISBN: 9780141357829
Alice has always wanted to join  the popular girls. She's been lonely since going to senior school and her old friends don't seem to have time for her anymore. They certainly haven't been all that interested in drama and the plays she's been in. So when the 'queen of the school' Savvy invites Alice to a  "Mad Hatters Tea Party" sleepover, she is thrilled to be included, but confused as to why they would invite her. Finally, she decides to go, and real drama ensues. Now, Alice is lying unconscious in a hospital bed, surrounded by voices that come and go. Lost in her own wonderland of dreams and memories, can Alice find her way back?
Looking-glass Girl is an amazing addition to Cathy Cassidys' canon of books for young people. With Alice In Wonderland as the theme of the story, she has woven a magical story of friendship, bullying and resilience that will enchant. Alices' 13-year old voice is eloquent and true, relating all the emotion and conflict of friendship and individuality of the teen-age years. The surrounding characters are memorable and true to life. The effects of their actions are played out with accuracy, showing the impact of bullying to great affect. Written in a dream-like manner, this book was written as a tribute to the book that was Cathy Cassidys' favourite as a child, and it is a very fitting tribute indeed. Highly recommend for all girls 10 - 13 years...and any fans of Alice in Wonderland. This is my new favourite Cathy Cassidy book.

AN ISLAND OF OUR OWN
author: Sally Nicholls
Scholastic Press (2 April 2015)
ISBN: 9781407124339
Holly, Jonathan and Davy have been trying to keep things together since their mother died. They live together in a small, dingy flat with Jonathan as their legal guardian. It isn't easy and they always struggle for money. When Great-Aunt Irene has a stroke, she gives Holly some old photographs that contain clues to an inheritance that may just solve all their problems. But they'll have to find it before anyone else does. Racing up and down the countryside, and with help from Jonathans' friends at Makerspace, Holly finds herself and her family in a real adventure. This is the story Holly tells...the story of everything that happened to them last year...
What a marvelous adventure/family drama and a breath of fresh air! Nicholls gives us a story with a little something for every age; and she does it with flair and style. Holly, the narrator of our story, is a wonderful character with a solid, genuine voice. In spite of all the difficulties in her life, she is dynamic, optimistic and very determined. In the beginning, we hear of her interest in Sherlock Holmes and his powers of deduction. As the story develops, we see Holly use her own powers of deduction to find a path to solve problems and dilemmas. Jonathan is solid, but overworked and tired, headstrong, but caring. In spite of his frustrations (and pride), he perseveres and takes opportunities to creatively weave his familys' story.  And Davy is a great little brother character; heartfelt, with the childlike belief in the good around him. Nothing trite or stereotyped in this fictional family situation...it all rings true. The story is filled with mayhem and unusual characters that pop up to help them on their quest, with a variety of perspectives that engage and add momentum. A story of family and friendship; a fantastic adventure and a very satisfying ending that is believable and fits the story perfectly, I smiled all the way through this novel. Sally Nicholls is an exceptionally gifted and varied writer. This book is simply wonderful.
http://www.sallynicholls.com/

THE BOY WHO LOST FAIRYLAND (FAIRYLAND 4)
author: Catherynne M. Valente illustrator: Ana Juan
Corsair (5 March 2015)
ISBN: 9781472119274
A young troll named Hawthorn is stolen from Fairyland and whisked away by the Golden Wind. He becomes a changeling; a human boy named Thomas, and grows up in the no less magical and strange city of Chicago. But Thomas has always had problems adjusting to life. Creating a varied and bizarre 'imaginary' world of his own, he pulls his school friends, parents...even the furniture, in to adventures and exciting realms. When he makes a fast and true friend named Tamburlaine, she recognises him for who he truly is and unleashes the magic of fairyland that dwells within his heart. Together they find a way back. But the Fairyland Thomas remembers as Hawthorn has changed a great deal. Now Tom Thorn, he and Tam embark on a quest to find the Spinster and set everything to rights once again. The results, however, are quite unexpected....in every way.
I love, love, love the Fairyland series! Valente has a talent for world building that completely turns all we recognise as fairyland on its' head. The rich, sumptuous world is evocative and compelling. The stories themselves are a pure delight for all ages. Valente is a master wordsmith; her writing and story-telling abilities are impeccable. In this installment, our young changeling is an unlikely hero. With a strong voice that carries through even his own frustration and confusion, Hawthorn/Thomas shines and is someone we want as a best friend...even though we know there will be times we think better of this. Along with him, we find ourselves traversing through strange and weirdly wonderful landscapes of the imagination that recall the traditional fairytale territories, while at the same time creating a completely new environment. All I can say is brilliant!
Oh, by the way, if you are looking for our dear friend from the Fairyland series, September, you'll need to be patient. She does make a brief appearance, but this is Toms' story....inextricably linked to Septembers', but we won't know how until next time.


NIGHTBIRD
author: Alice Hoffman
Simon&Schuster (5 March 2015)
ISBN: 9781471124211
As a small child, Twig returned to her mothers' family home, Sidwell, where they live a mostly reclusive life. Away from the centre of the small town, Twig grows up with her beautiful mothers' pink apple pies, lavender honey butter, loneliness, a taste for adventure and a deep family secret. The town itself is filled with rumours of a mysterious creature lurking in the night sky, stealing clothes and blankets and food. Twig doesn't take kindly to the rumours...you should be careful about the stories you tell. When new neighbours Julia and Agate move in to the abandoned cottage next door, they become Twigs' first true friends. But the links between the families run deep. Past magic rises to the surface and ancient curses reveal themselves...as do the broken hearts that have reeked havoc for generations in Sidwell.
Alice Hoffman returns with a tale embedded with magical realism for young people; I say young people...what I mean is everyone. Beautiful, elegant and dream-like, Nightbird is a story of love, friendship and magic that sweeps the reader away on a journey through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl who is held by an family curse. With the tenacity and hope that only young people have, not jaded by the burdens of life yet, and still aware of its' challenges and the pain the past will bring, Twig seeks not to change the past, but alter the hold it has on her family. She wants to be accepted, not to stand out and to give the gift of peace to all those affected by her familys' history, the towns history. Her character is thoroughly memorable; her voice strong and believable. She is typical of her age. In many ways, she is us. The characters that surround her are heartfelt. The story is evocative, filled with texture and nuance.This novel is exquisitely woven with a fairy-tale quality that is at once enchanting and gripping. And yes, there is a happy ending....which we all need to believe in. A gentle triumph, this is one I will return to again and again.

THE IRON WOMAN
author: Ted Hughes illustrator: Andrew Davidson
Faber &Faber (2014)
ISBN: 9780571314782
A young girl, Lucy witnesses the Iron Woman rise out of the swamp. Covered in chemicals and in a state of despair, Lucy cleans her. The Iron Woman
First published in 1994, some 25 years after its companion, The Iron Man, The Iron Woman is a stark warning on heedless annihilation of the environment for personal gain.  As such, this reissue is poignant at this time. Rich with symbolism and clear, incisive description, this is a powerful, evocative fable that poses moral dilemmas for young Lucy. The beginning is magnificent, albeit rather frightening for younger readers. As the story unfolds, it has a tendency to become plodding in places. This may be intentional, as it mimics the rhythm of progressive industrialisation. The finale rescues this tendency, making for an altogether exciting, dynamic book. The woodcut illustrations are perfect in capturing the tone, emotion and meaning within the tale. They lend a certain charm and place it well and truly in the realm of contemporary legend. While it lacks some the warmth and humour of The Iron Man, this is an exceptional read. 8-10, 10-12
(This review is now published in Inis Magazine, issue 43.http://www.childrensbooksireland.ie/inis )


THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE
authors: Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
illustrator: Todd Harris
Orion Childrens (4 November 2014)
ISBN: 9781444010541
Young schoolgirl Marrill is used to a life of adventure and exotic travels. But her life is turned upside down when her parents announce they must stay put for a while in Arizona. Quite unexpectedly, Marrill boards a pirate ship in a car park and is whisked away to another world that exists along side our own. Marrill finds herself traveling the Pirate Stream; and she desperately needs to find her way home. Likewise, young Fin is a master thief with an unusual condition; the moment he is out of sight, everyone forgets he exists. And while this may be a useful occurrence for a thief, Fin would give anything to find his mother, the one person who might remember him. When he meets Marrill, they are off on a thrilling adventure to locate the Map to Everywhere. It's the only way they will find what they are looking for. Across the Pirate Stream seas, through jungles and across frozen wastelands, they pursue their goal; all the time followed closely by the Oracle, a dark wizard also in search of the Map...but for very different reasons...
An enthralling fantasy tale; fast-paced and filled with humour; The Map to Everywhere is one that cannot be missed. So absorbing, you will find yourself completely immersed (and sometimes submerged) in the story. The journey is thrilling, packed with adventure...there is tragedy and comedy and incredible escapes as our young travellers find their way through the most beautifully imaged  landscapes. Written with texture and depth, and beautifully illustrated, this is just the beginning of a new series that includes magic and mayhem. Stunning!


ARCHIE GREENE AND THE MAGICIAN'S SECRET
author: D.D.Everest illustrator: James de la Rue
Faber & Faber (4 Sept 2014)
ISBN: 9780571309054
On his birthday, Archie Greene receives a mysterious package. Within an old wooden box, lies a book written in a language Archie doesn't understand. As he puzzles about the mysterious book, he receives instructions to travel to Oxford to return the book to the Museum of Magical Miscellany. But the book given into Archies' care is dangerous and powerful; dark forces are seeking the book and will stop at nothing to retrieve it. In Oxford, Archie finds help in a family he didn't know he had and discovers his legacy...the Flame Keepers; a community of magical people devoted to the protection and preservation of magical books... and an academy where the bookshelves are enchanted, the librarians are sorcerers and the books come to life. But does Archie have what it takes to unlock the books'
This book has everything in it that I love in a fantasy. Everests' world is one of tangible magic and mystery, with clear characterisation and a compelling plot. The idea that the librarians and bookbinders are the keepers and protectors of magic strikes a strong, clear note (giving a parallel to what it is writers and books actually do in a childs life.) While the story is a familiar one, the writing is fresh, powerful and loaded with both mystery and humour. The text is peppered through with wonderful black and white illustrations that accent the tale. The only argument I have with this book is the presentation; the cover seems cheap and somewhat unappealing...but do not let that put you off. This book is an absolute joy and highly, highly recommended! Perfect for fans of fantasy, Harry Potter and anyone who loves books about books (like me!) I can't wait for the next Archie Greene book!

LISTEN TO THE MOON
author: Michael Morpurgo
HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (2014) 
ISBN: 9780007339631

Alfie and his fisherman father find a lost girl on an uninhabited island in the Scillies. She is injured, alone and has no memory of who she is or where she came from. She can only say one word; “Lucy”. There is only one thing they know about her for sure…she loves music and moonlight. As she listens to the gramophone, something of the girl she once was begins to appear. But with WWI raging, suspicions are all around. Some of the Islanders even believe she could be a German spy! A chance encounter with a kind German soldier lights the flame of memory within her, and it is then that her story comes pouring out.

This is Morpurgo at his very best, doing what he does best. A story of love, family forgiveness and memory, with memorable characters exquisitely drawn, Listen to the Moon is positively gorgeous. Filled with emotional impact, intricately crafted, the tale is woven in around a quiet island life during WW1, with the added interest of the sinking of the Lusitania. There is a quiet, sensitive study of human nature, where black and white, good and bad aren't quite so defined in the hearts and minds of people. There is always a reason for peoples' actions, and those are complex and varied; often confusing. The description of the life of this small island community is rich and full of texture; the setting written so that it is easily visualised. Exceptional historical fiction with surprising revelations, I highly recommend this book for ages 10+.


MOUNTWOOD SCHOOL FOR GHOSTS
author: Toby Ibbotson
Macmillan Childrens Books
ISBN: 9781447271031

The ghosts of today have lost their ‘spook’. It’s been ages since anybody has been frightened to death, and no one really believes in ghosts anymore. The Great Hagges have just the answer: Mountwood School for Ghosts, where a magical staff instruct the students back to the highest levels of haunting. But it’s not so easy for some. These spirits have issues! They spend more time hiding and shivering in fright than in terrifying the human world.  Even Vera the Banshee is having trouble finding her voice. As for the Stinking Druid, well, he just stinks.

Then, two human children arrive in search of help. Daniel and Charlotte are desperate to save their community from destruction by an evil, money-hungry developer and his cronies. They have made powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to destroy homes and lives, all in the name of ‘progress’.  And Daniels’ Great-Aunt Joyce isn’t quite what she seems to be, either. Can a troop of oddball paranormals rise to the task and save Markham Street…or will they only make things much, much worse?
Written by Tony Ibbotson, the eldest son of renowned childrens' author, Eva Ibbotson, Mountwood School for Ghosts bears all the hallmarks of his mothers' work. It is funny and poignant at the same time. Dealing with issues such as loss, rejection, bullying and the urgency of friendship and community, this book is never heavy or overwhelming in its' presentation. Filled with memorable characters (there's even one character clearly based on Eva Ibbotson), it is an absolute delight! Intriguing, exciting, and completely enchanting, Mountwood School for Ghosts will keep you spellbound! Highly recommended for ages 9 +


COUNTING BY 7S
author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Piccadilly Press (1 May 2014) 
ISBN: 9781848123823
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius. She is obsessed by the number 7, diagnosing medical conditions and nature. Willow is the adopted daughter of two loving parents who have always accepted her unique qualities; in fact, they have adored her for those same qualities. They have even allowed Willow to turn their back garden into a veritable nature preserve. But, their sudden, unexpected death in a car accident turns Hollys' entire life inside out. Left completely on her own, with no other family to support her, Willow finds herself having to rely on people she barely knows to help her rebuild a life. She must finally face a world in which she can no longer avoid the challenges of human relationships and emotions.
There have been quite a few books written in the voice of someone with Aspergers' or a similar condition in recent years, and I have to say, this is one of the best. It is written with great empathy, but never falls into the trap of being overly sentimental or trite. The relationships depicted are fraught with genuine concern and challenges. The characters struggle with everyday 'rights' and 'wrongs'. The voices are strong and genuine; they are real, tangible people. The relationship between Wilow and her friends' brother, Quang-ha is surprising, as he learns tolerance and she begins to grasp at something about human nature and reliance. As Willows' story unfolds, the reader is taken on a journey completely open to possibilities, both good and bad. As the process of growth and healing takes place, you feel the confusion, sometimes desperation and sometimes exasperation of all in the story. But this isn't a heavy, depressing story. It is relatedThough the end may be a little predictable


ROOFTOPPERS
author: Katherine Rundell
Faber & Faber (2013)
ISBN: 9780571280599
Sophie was orphaned in a shipwreck, or so she's told. She was discovered floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel by fellow survivor, Charles Maxim. Charles became foster parent to Sophie, and in his own free and easy way, raised her to 'never ignore a possible'. The possible that Sophie cannot ignore, in fact that she is convinced of, is that her mother is still alive. When the authorities decide that, at age 12, Sophie must be sent to an orphanage, she and Charles go on the run....to Paris to find her mother. There she meets Matteo, a boy who lives on rooftops and walks in the sky. Unbeknownst to Charles, who is busy arguing with authorities to gain access to ship records, Sophie and Matteo dash across the Parisian rooftops in a desperate attempt to find Sophies' mother before it's too late.
What an exceptional book! Beautifully written, crafted in a most imaginative way, Rooftoppers is a truly unique and spell-binding story. The central character, Sophie, well and truly deserves a place alongside other children's books heroines, such as Matilda and Pippi Longstocking, as a bold and strong girl character. The relationship between Sophie and Charles is at once touching, heartfelt and amusing. As the story progresses the characters develop, becoming more and more tangible. The settings and pacing are descriptively revealed with a genuine appreciation for time and place. This book is absolute gold-dust, completely deserving of every accolade it's already received. I can't recommend Rooftoppers highly enough. Stylish, memorable, exciting.... simply amazing!

THE RIVER SINGERS
author: Tom Moorhouse illustrator: Simon Mendez
Oxford University Press (2013) 
ISBN: 9780192734808
A family of young water voles is living happily in their burrow with their mother, when one night a deadly danger appears outside. When their mother is taken by a mink, they have no choice but to set out on their own to find a territory where they can live safely. Sylvan and his brother and sisters make their way along the river in a journey fraught with danger and adventure. Sylvan listens to the song of the river as it guides them and gives courage. Meeting curious and new creatures along the way, will they ever find a place to call home again?
This novel features unforgettable characters on a journey to, not only a new home, but self-discovery. The river itself stands out as a character in it's own right, and the natural world is portrayed in all it's beauty and savagery. A tale expertly told, The River Singers has shades of a true classic while maintaining a thoroughly contemporary feel. There is humour as well as sorrow, family life and friendship as well as individuality. Think of a combination of Watership Down and Wind in the Willows. Throughout the book, the black and white illustrations beautifully accent the tone and feel of the writing, and the presentation of the book is wondrous. A strong environmental message runs through without overwhelming an exquisitely crafted story. This is not just a book for children; adults will love this as well. A real gift; you will hold The River Singers dear in your memory. 

THE TWISTROSE KEY
author: Tone Almhjell illustrator: Jan Schoenherr
Little Brown Young Readers ISBN: 9780349001661
Lin knows that something is horribly wrong in the house her family has rented. The clocks are ticking too slowly and frost covers everything, even in the pouring rain. The loss of her beloved pet, Rufus, seemed to have set off a chain of events that is causing chaos in her world. One night, Lin receives a mysterious Twistrose Key... a key that leads her through a gate in the cellar of her house and into the mystical land of Sylver. Here is where every beloved animal goes when they die. But all is not well here, either. The Winter Prince is missing and dark forces loom everywhere. Together again with Rufus, Lin must seek out and find the Winter Prince to restore order to the land of Sylver, and to her own world or risk being trapped forever.
Almhjell has created an amazing, textual world that sparkles and shines with all the lustre of the best childrens' fantasy writing. The characters are well-defined and their dialogue and relationships are well-conceived and very natural in their depiction. The storytelling sings with life. The further along you read in this book, the deeper you enter this world. The descriptions are full and wondrous. The pace is perfect, never over-burden by detail. Each chapter brings new surprises. Sylver becomes a world very real and vibrant. It is reminiscent of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and the Scandanavian feel to the writing is fresh and exciting...but it also has the rare gift of standing strong in it's own right. I couldn't put this book down! The Twistrose Key is my children's book of 2013. An absolute must-read!!! Magical, insightful and a pure joy.

THE BLACK CROW CONSPIRACY
author: Christopher Edge
Nosy Crow (2014) ISBN: 9780857630544
It's London, 1902, and everyone is preparing for the King's coronation. With the threat of war looming from across the sea), a new mystery is weaving it's way into the capital citys' streets as the population gleefully focus on this most celebrated event. And, wouldn't you know it, behind the editors' desk of The Penny Dreadful, Penelope Treadwell is suffering from writers' block. With the magazine in desperate need of funds to stay afloat and the public clamouring for a new tale of intrigue from Montgomery Flinch, she comes up with the brilliant idea of asking her readers. A competition is born and it doesn't take long before story suggestions come pouring in. One catches her eye. A letter comes in confessing to an impossible crime; the theft of the Crown Jewels and a thief who simply disappears. Unbeknownst to Penny, this isn't simply a story. The Crown Jewels have indeed been stolen, 'ghost thieves' abound in Londons' streets and a sinister plot is looming.... and Montgomery Flinch is about to take the blame for it all.
Another cracking mystery story from Christopher Edge! The third is the series involving Penelope Treadwell is just as strong a read as the other two. The author has created a central character that is admirable, wilful and extremely sympathetic. The plot is truly imaginative and written in a deletable style with a strong balance of suspense and humour. It tips it's hat to the mysteries of the Victorian and Edwardian era, while keeping the action well suited to the present young reader. Intrigue, mystery, impossible crimes and an impossible detective.... what more could you ask for? Very suitable for good readers aged 9 to 12 years.


THE GRUNTS ALL AT SEA
author: Philip Ardagh illustrator: Alex Scheffler
Nosy Crow (2013) ISBN: 9780857630711
Mr Grunt is bestowed with a secret mission. He has to deliver a Person Of Great Importance (POGI) to  Mrs Bayliss on a certain island by the twenty-fifth; alive and well. He can’t tell anyone more than that; not even his beloved Mrs Grunt. There are people who are trying to stop him. There are people who want to snatch the POGI; to use the POGI for their own purposes. So, the POGI must be transported in secret. It’s lucky the Grunts live in something resembling a caravan which can be pulled along by Fingers the elephant. There are many mysteries and questions. Why is the POGI wearing a barrel? Who is this Mrs Bayliss? Will Fingers the elephant sink the boat? But all Mr Grunt is concerned with is the excitement, the adventure… and the silver coins he’ll receive if he completes his mission.
Ardagh is an absolute master of humour, word-play and just plain daftness. Combine this with Scheffler’s hilarious illustrations and what you have is absolute genius. The Grunts are so memorable; so enjoyable; so… um… revolting... but lovable… or likeable… or something. There are a number of similarities in style and content to Roald Dahl’s The Twits, but Ardagh’s own particular narrative style gives the reader a thoroughly unique experience. As well as being completely entertaining, the use of language broadens the reader’s comprehension abilities. The Grunts All At Sea is funny, being at once subtle and bold in its humour. It keeps you hanging on from the first page to the last. Fabulous!
(published in Inis Magazine 20/12/2013 http://www.inismagazine.ie/reviews/book/the-grunts-all-at-sea )

WAFFLE HEARTS
author: Maria Parr
Walker Books (2013) ISBN: 9781406341362
Trille and Lena are best-friends; at least that's what Trille thinks. He isn't so sure what Lena thinks. They live in a small village in Norway beside a fjord. Idyllic and friendly, it's the perfect place
A wonderful and gentle read about the trials of friendship and family life, Waffle Hearts shares many of the best attributes of Scandinavian children's literature. Pippi Longstocking has come up as a comparison, but I'd liken it more to Lindgren's Ronia the Robber's Daughter. No matter, Parr is sitting right alongside the best. The story is warm, delightful and moving and the characters and their relationships are beautifully drawn. You will love bold and funny Lena! Trille is thoughtful and a willing companion to all her ideas. The writing is descriptive and gives a perfect image of time, place and action. This book is simply a delight. Beautifully presented, it makes a great gift.

BEHIND THE BOOKCASE
author: Mark Steensland / illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Yearling Books (reprint edition 2013)  9780385740722
Sarah is dragged along to grandmothers' house and it is the last thing she wants to do....especially now that Grandma Winnie has died. The plan is to sell the house
Steensland created an amazing and mysterious world in this journey about facing your fears. There are parallels to the Narnia books, but with a difference. Behind the Bookcase explores the world of shadows, the world of Light and the question 'what happens when you die.' Well-written with a love of language and story-telling, it is never heavy. The plot has a certain darkness to it, but never so dark as to become burdensome to the young, competent reader. A wonderful book for lovers of fantasy and fairytales.

THE LOST GODS (Sleeping Army)
author: Francesca Simon  
Profile Books 2013  9781846685651
As we revisit  Freya from the earlier The Sleeping Army, we recall how she went to Hel and back to restore youth the Norse Gods and preserve Asgard. Now, the Norse Gods have crossed the Bifrost Bridge and they are back, walking among us again. But who cares? Their popularity has been waining for some time. It seems human life is far too busy and far too important for regular worship any more, and the Gods' powers are disappearing. But the Frost Giants are awakening and the effect on earth is just as strong as in Asgard. So the Gods conceive a plan... not only will they come and walk among us, but they will become celebrities! That will show those Frost Giants. Of course, Freya is destined to get stuck right in the middle.....
The Lost Gods takes up where The Sleeping Army left off. It is wonderful! Hilarious and thrilling with memorable characters and a story that has real staying power, I challenge you to ride along with this fast-paced journey in a contemporary Britain, where the old Viking religion never lost its' sway. A great read from the author of Horrid Henry. (Review of The Sleeping Army is below on this page.)

CHERRY GREEN STORY QUEEN
author: Annie Dalton  illustrator: Charlie Alder
Barrington Stoke  9781781122006
(First published online in Inis Magazine; October 2013)
http://www.inismagazine.ie/reviews/book/cherry-green-story-queen 
Have you ever felt like you were part of the wrong story? That’s exactly what it’s like for Mia, Billy, Juno and Kyle (who is a different story altogether). Stuck in a foster home, they all long for a different story to their lives… and they know they’ll just have to live with what they’ve got. Until Cherry Green mysteriously arrives one day with a special secret and a very old book. Suddenly everything is looking up. Suddenly, even Kyle doesn’t seem so bad. And then, just as mysteriously as she arrived, Cherry Green disappears; but she leaves something important behind her.
A contemporary twist on the Arabian Nights, Cherry Green Story Queen takes us on journey through the lives of children in a foster home, but it is a journey that children can relate to regardless of their situation. We all want a happy ending; we all want friendship; and this book opens up the possibility of just that through the world of stories. Barrington Stoke has done a brilliant job of bringing reading skills to those reluctant or dyslexic readers, but it’s books like this one that have also earned the publishers a strong reputation throughout the business. Entertaining, easy to follow and leaving the reader wanting more, Cherry Green Story Queen is remarkable. It builds the story with each page and pulls the reader along on the adventure with humour and understanding. Its reference back to the Arabian Nights adds to the intrigue. Its convincing story-line peppered through with apt illustrations make this one a real winner! Perfect for children with literacy challenges.
YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES: KNIFE EDGE
author: Andrew Lane
Macmillan Children's Books 9781447248828
After sailing away from his last adventure on board the Gloria Scott, young Sherlock is heading for home. Arriving in Galway, he disembarck's to find Mycroft waiting for him. But Mycroft is not simply there to welcome Sherlock back and see him to London safely. Having been sent to Galway by the British government, Mycroft needs Sherlock's assistance in investigating a sinister psychic who claims to have genuine abilities to contact the dead. But someone, or something is trying to silence the psychic. A servant found dead...Mycroft brutally attacked... another mystery for young Sherlock to solve.
Like all the other in the series, Knife Edge is a fantastic read! Filled with adventure, and well-crafted mystery, there are many puzzling details upon which young Sherlock can hone his skills. I couldn't put the book down! The plot line in this (and the others) closely follow the work of Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes writings. The feel and tone of the book fits neatly in with the originals, as well, while giving the young reader today a language is contemporary, but stills sounds as if it could be written by Conan Doyle. And the story....wow! I strongly encourage you to read read Knife Edge if you are a fan of adventure, mystery or Sherlock Holmes! You will love it.

FLORA AND ULYSSES: the illuminated adventures
author: Kate DiCamillo illustrator: K.G. Campbell
Walker Books 9781406345186
The poor squirrel never saw it coming. He was sucked up in a vacuum cleaner. Fortunately, Flora Belle Buckman; self-described cynic who has read every issue of the comic Terrible Things That Can Happen to You, did see it and flew to his rescue. What neither the cynic nor the squirrel could have imaged is the the squirrel, now named Ulysses, emerged from the vacuum born anew... with powers of strength, flight and misspelled poetry.Flora also learns that perhaps being a cynic isn't all it's cracked up to be. Flora learns hope and to believe in the promise of a capacious heart.
Kate DiCamillo couldn't write a bad book if she tried. This book is quirky, wholly original and filled with strong implications of friendship, loneliness and faith. Flora is an amazing character who faces an fairly ineffective family life with cleverness, tenacity and keen observation. The humour throughout allows the over-riding themes to come forth without ever being heavy-handed. The illustrations, or illuminations (they truly do shine) give the story an instant appeal for every reader, young or old. This book is an absolute treasure!
Do read more from Kate DiCamillo: try Because of Winn-Dixie (of course, you must!), The Remarkable Journey of Edward Tulane and The Magician's Elephant. Remarkable.. every single one!

THE CHANGELING QUEST
(Children of the Fae: Book One)

Author: Maria Moloney

Our Street Books; 2013; 9781780994055
Tara has strange experiences whenever she enters water; her feet and hands begin to web and she finds she has no trouble breathing. But then, there has always been something unusual about Tara’s family. Her younger sister, Niamh is a changeling, a fairy child exchanged for a human baby 10 years earlier. That same night, their father disappeared. Now, on Halloween night, Tara, NIamh and friends Lucy and Jared make their way to the ancient burial mound near their house, completely unaware that it is actually a portal to the other realm; the fairy world. In a flash of blue light, they find themselves transported. It seems it is time for Niamh to return to her own world and her real sister to return home. But things are not as simple as this. In the fairy kingdoms, there is someone who is not so happy to see the changeling’s return. Evil Queen Marvaanagh will stop at nothing to retain control over the changeling and the kingdom.

This is a marvellous tale, filled with adventure, danger and magic. While she uses a firmly rooted understanding of time-honoured folk tales, Moloney has brought the changeling myth forward into the modern world that reads true to life. The textures of both worlds blend together to give a haunting picture in a story that will stick with you. The characters are realistic and their plight puts any reader in the middle of the story. Well-written and completely enjoyable, this is one in which to immerse yourself. Can’t wait for the next instalment!


COW BELLE BEAUTY QUEEN
author: Leena Parkkinen illustrator: Katja Wehner
Little Island  ISBN: 9781908195319
Eight-year-old Milena is brushing her teeth, when she hears a sudden splashing coming from the tub behind her. As she peers around the curtain, she can't help but notice that a cow having a bath...scrubbing it's back with the loo brush and blowing bubbles. And so begins an amazing and hilarious friendship. Not only does Semi-Skimmed takes baths; she climbs into Milena's bed (it's cold outside!), she prefers chocolate biscuits to grass (who wouldn't) and Semi-Skimmed has her heart set on winning the tri-annual Cow Belle Beauty Pageant. Not only does the winner receive the title of 'Cow Belle Beauty Queen', but her photo is printed on every Milky Ray-bar wrapper during her 3 year reign! But does Semi-Skimmed really have a chance? Can she win over her arch-enemy, Hefty Hoofington (the current champion)? Especially after wander into a field and coming out covered with nettle rash and needing to use a cream that turns her GREEN! And.... how long can Milena hide her bovine friend from her mum? Mum must be suspicious by now.
Cow Belle Beauty Queen is an absolute joy to read! Funny, poignant and completely entertaining, it's Finnish author write in a style quite reminiscent of The Moomins books. With memorable characters, great pacing and peppered throughout with lively illustrations utterly suited to the story, this is one book to read alone or share with the whole family for laugh-out-loud moments. A book you won't soon forget!

THE THIRD PIG DETECTIVE AGENCY:THE CURDS & WHEY MYSTERY
Author: Bob Burke
Friday Project   ISBN: 9780007364039
Harry Pigg is back….and not a moment too soon! When Matilda Muffet turns up at the Third Pig Detective Agency, she is at her wits' end. Giant spiders are over-running the Curds and Whey B&B, spinning webs everywhere and eating her guests’ breakfasts. Is someone trying to run her out of business in the name of progress? Or is something even more sinister afoot….or is that a-trotter? (Sorry…bad pig pun.) As the investigation
Clever twists on the old-school hardboiled detective novels and old childhood favourites meet once again in this, the third instalment of the Third Pig Detective Agency
(published in Inis Magazine June 2013: http://www.inismagazine.ie/reviews/book/the-curds-and-whey-mystery )

JUNGLE TANGLE
Author: Debbie Thomas/ illustrator: Stella MacDonald
Mercier Press    9781781171165
Get ready for another ‘hair-raising’ adventure with those quirky characters from Dead Hairy! Abby is thrilled to be on the adventure of a lifetime with best friend, Perdita. So off to the Ecuador they go, accompanied by the whole family, including Squashy Grandma and her pet wig, Chester. Their mission? To reunite
Another delight from the pen of Debbie Thomas, this book is hysterical. The fantastic, unlikely characters are well drawn and carry on consistently from the first book. While they are completely off-the-wall
The descriptions carry a lot of hilarious impact, and the pacing and rhythm of the story, as it bounces from home to school to the jungle, is fast, but never rushed. The reader is swept along on a mad-cap mission with danger at every turn, laughing all the way. The simple black and white illustrations throughout complement the plot and give the reader a moment of rest and focus, before spinning off again.
As with its predecessor, Jungle Tangle is utterly delightful, laugh-out-loud funny and leaves the reader wanting more.
(review first published in Inis Magazine:  http://www.inismagazine.ie/reviews/book/jungle-tangle)

Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom            
Author: Wendy Meddour/illustrator: Mina May
Oxford University Press       9780192794635 
Wendy Quill really wants to be ‘a little bit famous’, but her plans don’t always work out. Still, nothing can stop her from trying… and having the best time ever. First, she’s absolutely sure she’ll get the lead part in her school production of Peter Pan and Wendy. She has been Wendy all her life, after all. When that doesn’t work out, she stuns the audience with her performance as the crocodile’s bottom! Then, she gets dragged along to her best-friend Florence’s tap-dancing class, and manages to land a part as a tap-dancing munchkin in their show…. and she didn’t even know she could dance! But fame finally comes her way when she dresses up for a class project on the Plague and saves her teacher, Miss Pinch, from Kevin, the escaped school rat. Her heroic deed makes the front page, where everyone can see her!
Loosely based on the author’s own childhood experiences, it is relayed in the voice of the central character, nine-year-old Wendy Quill. It is genuine, fast-paced and truly funny. The book is segmented into three ‘stories’, all of which flow together with ease, making this book a brilliant choice for newly confident readers, or to be shared. All of the characters are well-drawn and memorable. The situations they find themselves in are easy to relate to and filled with humour and heart. The ‘message’ is simple; be yourself and never give up!
Peppered throughout the book are delightful, lively illustrations by Mina May, the author’s 11-year-old daughter. They are dynamically rendered and add real punch and excitement to the story, pulling the reader through and giving even more to laugh about.
Well-written, really funny, a great story and exceptional illustrations, this is the first of a series of Wendy Quill’s adventures. Highly recommended, I just loved this book. They were very excited about this book at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and it’s obvious why. It is full of warmth and candour and is an absolute delight in all ways. Personally, I can’t wait for the sequel.
To be published: May 2, 2013

THE LAST WILD
author: Piers Torday
Quercus
ISBN: 9781780878287
The world has drastically changed. Animals no longer exist, due to a deadly virus called Red Eye; and any animals that have survived will be killed to control its' possible spread to the human population. In the meantime, twelve-year-old Kester James is locked away in Spectrum Hall, a 'school' for challenged children, and told there is something dangerously wrong with him. The truth is that Kester is unique. He has a great gift. He can talk to animals, and understand them when they speak to him. When he is approached by a bossy cockroach and a flock of pigeons, he thinks he has finally lost his mind completely. But they save Kester and fly him away to a remote location where the last wild creatures still live. A great, wise stag needs Kesters' help. Together, the venture out into the world. The animals saved Kester. Now, it's only fair that he save them.
This is a quiet, evocative story that is loaded with cliff-hangers and fast-paced action.The descriptive quality of the text is thoughtful and exquisite... but it is never boring or tedious. In fact, it is wonderful. The character of Kester is beautifully drawn and thoroughly believable. You find yourself willing him along the way throughout this quest. Engaging, heartfelt and totally amazing, this is one not to miss. For ages 9+... The Last Wild is a book for everyone.

THE GREAT GALLOON
author:Tom Banks
Hot Key Books
ISBN: 9781471400889
The Great Galloon is the biggest, grandest, finest airship in existence; manned by Captain Meredith Anstruther and his faithful, even if a bit dopey, crew. But all is not well. On the eve of Cap't. Anstruthers' wedding to the beautiful Lady Isabella, his evil brother appears on board and kidnaps her! While giving chase, the Captain and crew have to fight off BeheMoths, angry sea eagles and prevent the Great Galloon from plummeting out of the skies... and restore Captain Anstruthers' good name in the eyes of Lady Isabella. Fortunately, on his side, he has the extremely clever young Stanley  and Rasmussen, a countess-to-be, who would rather be a writer sailing the skies with the ship.This is a hilarious, sassy and brilliant adventure story made for read-aloud story times (with "goodnight" breaks built in... and instructions to ignore them if you like) or for reading on your own. I had such great fun with this book, and you will, too! Everything about it is fun and well thought out. A perfect journey that ticks all the boxes!

 NORTH OF NOWHERE
 author: Liz Kessler
Orion Childrens Books
ISBN: 9781444001532
Mia's wonderful grandad has vanished and no one, not even her grandmother, knows what happened or why. So Mia and her mother head off to Porthaven, a sleepy little seaside village, to support her grandma and help her run the pub until Grandads' return. Mia makes friends with local girl, Dee, but only by reading and writing messages in Dee's secret diary! This is her only consolation, as her Spring half-term has been completely wrecked by landing in Porthaven. But Porthaven hides a deep, stormy mystery... one that is fifty years old and has Dee, Mia's Grandad and a young boy named Peter right at its' heart. Will time and tide wash away every trace of all three?
Told in Mias' voice, the story rings strong and true, and weaves a time-spell magic from the very start. An adventure/mystery that is also a family drama, North to Nowhere pulls the reader through the story page after page by maintaining the tension and creating a tangible atmosphere. The descriptions of both character and place are believable and textural. You become lost in this small village. You become entangled with its' people and with the sea. Liz Kessler, author of he Emily Windsnap series, is clearly no stranger to the sea and her secrets; and this beautifully told stand-alone novel is one not to miss. (for ages 9+)

THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE
author :Catherynne Valente
Much-in-Little
ISBN:9781780338446
We return to Fairyland with September (as she has been longing to do), but all is not well there. Magic is being rationed and all the shadows are routinely disappearing. When September left fairyland, her shadow remained behind her and has become the queen of Fairyland-Below. In her own somewhat selfish and somewhat heartless way, September's shadow is responsible for all that is wrong in Fairyland. September must journey into Fairyland-Below, for it seems it is only she who can restore the magic and save the shadows (and all her dear friends) and, of course, retrieve her shadow. This follow-up to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a slightly darker in tone to the first, but we are exploring the shadow world. It is absolutely marvellous! It continues September's journey flawlessly as it delves into the confusion and disorder of Fairyland-Below, and as such reveals something about the shadow side of people. September is nearing 13 in this story, and many changes are afoot for her in the near future. We see a bit more about her parents and their story begins to reveal itself. The characters are strongly consistent with the first book as the journey deepens into fairyland... and September grows a heart! All of this makes it sound  as if the story may be too clever for its' own good, but not so at all. It is brilliant, entertaining, deeply moving and thought-provoking. A totally absorbing tale; one of the best "fairytales" written in contemporary times, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland... is not a childrens' book... it is a book for everyone of all ages.

JACK HUNTER: THE FRENCH CONNECTION
author: Martin King
Razor Sharp
ISBN: 9780957102118
After solving the ancient secret of the King, Jack Hunter's life has been brilliant. Finding a centuries-old key and unlocking mysteries dating back to the time of King Richard, as well as being integral in unveiling dangerous criminal activities and rescuing long-lost treasure have earned Jack and his friends a French holiday. But nothing is ever easy. Jack finds himself in the middle of a robbery, and nothing is what it seems. Russian gangsters, stolen jewels, a famous movie star.... and another historical secret. What is going on? And how do they even know about Jack? With his family in danger, Jack can't even be sure who the good guys are. This second installment of the Jack Hunter series is even more thrilling than the first. The characters are now familiar, and not only do they solve this mystery as well, but they go through arguments and turmoils typical of every twelve and thirteen year old. Strong family and friendship ties, cryptic clues and drama all combine to make an exceptional read; a contemporary 'Enid Blyton' or Hardy Boys' type adventure, I highly recommend this series for anyone who is a fan of adventure, excitement and intrigue. (See review below of the first book: Jack Hunter: Secret of the King)


LIAR and SPY
author: Rebecca Stead
Andersen
ISBN: 9781849395076
Georges (with a silent 's') has a lot to be worried about. He gets plenty of attention from the boys at school...the wrong sort of attention. His father has lost his job and now his mum is working at the hospital all the time. And they've had to sell their wonderful house and move into an apartment block with some really unusual neighbors. Like Safer, for example.... he lives upstairs, is home-schooled and runs a spy club.As Safer enlists Georges help to solve the case of the mysterious Mr. X, the distinction between games, lies and reality starts to crumble. This brings Georges face to face with some home-truths he really didn't want to deal with.
Rebecca Stead is a wonderful writer! The story builds and twists with nuances and pulls the reader aptly through the plot. As the story develops, realisations hit in stages; minute moments of clarity; without overburdening the plot. With a certain ease and economy, the inner thoughts and feelings of a young boy caught up in a changing social dynamic are revealed. The effective use of language and detailing, unusual characters and intriguing relationships are hallmark in Stead's writing. It takes what appears to be a simple, obvious story of family and friendships and spins it into something truly special. A warm and startling novel from the author of When You Reach Me, Liar and Spy is highly recommended.(for ages 10 years +)



GHOST KNIGHT
author:Cornelia Funke
Orion Childrens; 12 October 2012
ISBN: 9781444008234
When 11 year old Jon Whitcroft is packed off to attend his (dead) fathers' old boarding school, he doesn't expect to enjoy it. He expects that his mother will finally miss her only son and bring him back home, in spite of his bearded dentist of a step-father. But he certainly never expects to be greeted on his 6th night there by a band of vengeful ghosts, intent on seeing him meet his death. Even with the help of his new friend Ella, her very odd grandmother and the spirit of a long-dead knight, Longspee, Jon has extreme doubts regarding his survival and his ability to finish a task only the last descendant Hartgill can complete...to send the evil Knight Stourton and his henchmen back to Hell. Cornelia Funke is my favourite children's author. She truly knows how to spin a yarn that keeps the read completely engaged and on the edge of their seat at all times. This book is no exception. It advertises itself as 'a perfect English ghost story' and it certainly is that.The historical references are well researched and explained, yet the story is utterly contemporary, making it a perfect blend of past and present.With striking characters throughout and fast-paced, yet descriptive writing, Ghost Knight is magnificent. Written for the 8 to 11 age range, this is one that will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who likes a riveting, creepy story.



BARTOLOME: THE INFANTA’S PET
Author: Rachel Van Kooj
Translated by: Siobhan Parkinson
Little Island Press; 17 September 2012
ISBN: 9781908195265
In 17th century Spain, life is run by a strict code of conduct and appearances dictated by the Royal House. It is not a place of kindness or understanding, especially for a dwarf like Bartolome Carrasco. When his father, coachman to the Infanta Margarita, moves his family to Madrid for a better life; Bartolome is kept hidden from the world in a back room. But Bartolome is clever. He hears that a dwarf, just like him, has a position in the Royal household, he begins to educate himself in order to follow his dream and make his family proud. A sudden coach accident brings Bartolome to the attention of the young Infanta, and she demands that he be brought into the court as her pet. Forced to dress and behave as a dog, it seems life is destined to be one humiliation after another. Then, Bartolome meets the artist, Diego Velazquez, court painter who is working on Las Meninas, a portrait of the Royal family centring on the Infanta. A plan is hatched that may free Bartolome for his life of servitude and fear forever.
This novel was inspired by the painting Las Meninas, which hangs in La Prado, Spain’s national art gallery in Madrid. Van Kooj has lovingly, yet realistically, given a portrait of life at the court of Philip IV. The characters are expertly drawn and the relationships within the hierarchy of the court and outside it are easy to follow. With clear insight, we are also given a view of inner struggles, not just of Bartolome, but of the rest of his family as well, as they navigate through a world with little compassion for those who are different, or who remain on the lower rungs of life’s ladder. Those surrounding who see the wrong being done seem helpless to do anything, due to the power and position held by the Infanta. The cruelty displayed, even by Bartolome’s own father, is horrendous, making Bartolome’s position even more heartfelt. It is outrageous to get such a clear view of how the whims of a small, spoilt child has such a profound effect on the lives of all those around her. And yet, the courage and hope held within the story are prevalent, even when it seems there is nothing but despair. The descriptive quality of the story gives texture to the tale, as the sights, smells and sounds of 1650’s Madrid come to full life. Historical fiction may not be the most popular genre in children’s literature, but Bartolome: the Infanta’s Pet is certainly argument that it is one of the most important and steadfast. This novel is wonderful, poignant, dramatic and thought-provoking. It takes us on an amazing adventure written with true warmth, while at the same time giving pause for thought as it reflects many issues which remain with us in the 21st century. I highly recommend it.
 
FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM
authors: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm / introduction by Cornelia Funke
ISBN: 9780141343075
Puffin Books
Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's collection of fairy tales, Puffin Books has produced this absolutely beautiful volume. Accentuated by illustrations from some current award-winning artists at work in picture books today (Oliver Jeffers, Raymond Briggs, Helen Oxenbury and more), the collection reproduces our best-loved fairy tales in the original text... with all their raw, unvarnished wonder..... Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Golden Goose, The Travelling Musicians (The Bremen Town Musicians), Tom Thumb.... and so many more. There are dark forests to travel through, beautiful princesses trapped by evil queens, bargains made with wicked little men, giants, frog princes; all the familiar comfort food of our childhood that would take us deep inside the recesses of human nature. The introduction by Cornelia Funke sets the scene for a journey we've all taken before... and need to take again and again. Wonderful!

THE LAND OF STORIES: the wishing spell
author: Chris Colfer/illustrator: Brandon Dorman
ISBN: 97819074411762
Atom Books; July 2012
Life has changed drastically for twins Alex and Conner Bailey since their father died. They've moved out of their beautiful, cosy family home into a rented house. It's difficult to keep their focus in school and their mother has to work.... all the time.... to keep a roof over their heads. For Alex, her main escape from this is to lose herself in the fairy tales they were told by their father and grandmother. One the eve of their twelfth birthday, they receive "The Land of Stories" as a gift from their grandmother. And before too long, they find themselves falling into the book.... and a land they had only imagined in their wildest dreams. But getting home isn't as easy as falling. They must embark on the greatest scavenger hunt of their lives to create the circle for the Wishing Spell to take effect. With the Evil Queen escaped from her dungeon and after the same items, and trolls and assassins right behind them, how will they ever make it home?
I read this book with some trepidation and wondering if the author, Chris Colfer from GLEE, could actually pull it off. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by what followed on it's pages. This is a wonderful adventure story that revisits most of the old fairy tales we knew as children... Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and, of course, Snow White. While there are a few ( very few) pacing issues and some of the concepts have been skewed, it is a well-written and thoroughly enjoyable read. It takes these old tales and turns them on their sides to bring a fresh look. Within, there are some interesting views of human nature; why we do the things we do and what motivates human behaviour, which is what fairy tales are to do in the first place. I really couldn't put it down! It is an absolute delight for children ages 9 to 12, or to be shared by the whole family. I highly recommend it all who enjoy fairy tales or even just a great adventure. 
http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=Arthur_Quinn_and_the_Fenris_Wolf_%28The_Father_of_Lies_Chronicles%29_by_Alan_Early 

THE APOTHECARY
author: Maile Meloy/ illustrator: Ian Schoenherr
ISBN: 9781849395069
Andersen Press; July 2012
When 14 year old Janie Scott moves to London from California, she finds it cold, dreary and endlessly dull. She doesn’t fit in at her new school, St. Bedens, and getting used to life in 1950’s London, a life so different to the one she left behind, seems impossible. Then she meets Benjamin Burrows, another misfit. Benjamin wants to be a spy, and at the height of the Cold War, opportunities for espionage abound. But when Benjamin’s father, the local (and mysterious) apothecary is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin get pulled into a world they could only imagine. Entrusted with the apothecary’s book of ancient knowledge, they must use it to track down Benjamin’s father, all the while keeping it from the hands of Russian spies with nuclear weapons. It seems the only chance to save the world may actually be magic.
Meloy has given us a unique glimpse into a uniquely textured world. The era of the Cold War seldom features in children’s literature, and the times are described with an unerring accuracy from the views on either side of the Atlantic. Add to this the injection of the strange, impossible world of the apothecary and its accompanying alchemy and magic, what you have is a compelling, poignant novel of loyalty and responsibility coupled with a truly thought-provoking view of a little discussed period of history… and written for children! Its magical content is blended into the story with such skill, that it actually belongs in this mundane world and is completely believable. Queries begin to emerge about the line between science and superstition/magic. There is a merging of the real and the illusory that is expressed with wonder.
The Apothecary is peppered throughout with stunning illustrations by Ian Schoenherr. These black and white renderings appear every few pages and exquisitely create a sense of mood, timing and place. Their inclusion was essential to the book, as it gives atmosphere and helps pull the reader along, creating a strong sense of being present to the story.
The pacing of this novel is a thing of beauty. No, it is not the fast-paced, roller coaster ride of a story that we have become accustomed to in books of this type. It’s better. Meloy slows the pace at just the right moments to allow the reader to relax and absorb the action, its circumstances and possibilities before the next round starts. So, the timing of the plot is expertly handled with a lot of finesse. And the writing itself is simply beautiful; no airs or graces - just a clearly written text with very strong descriptive passages giving exactly the right amount of information without over-killing its content. With well-defined characters and circumstances in a tangible world, The Apothecary is a gripping joy to read.
http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Apothecary_by_Maile_Meloy )


 ALL FALL DOWN...a story of survival
author: Sally Nicholls
ISBN 9781407121727
 
It’s the summer of 1349. Isabel lives her young life as a villein, tied to the land which the family rents from the Lord of the small village of Ingleform in Yorkshire. Leaving is not an option.  Life as a villein is hard, but nothing has prepared Isabel for the all-consuming Black Death decimating everything in its’ path as it sweeps across Europe. But when the plague runs riot across all of Britain, finally reaching her town, life there is devastated. It seems the world will end in a wave of fear, pestilence and horror.
Told in the first person, Isabels’ account paints a picture of life and death during the time of the plague, the most infamous ‘apocalyptic’ event in European history. After the death of her father, much-loved step-mother and baby brother, Isabel is left to fend for herself and her younger siblings. She and the remains of her family are taken to Yorkshire town to live with a kindly (and wealthy) stranger, whose own family has been wiped out by the Black Death. She is unhappy there; the family does not fare well in their new life and tragedy is not far from reaching them. But the long road home is not easy, and once they do return to Ingleform, will they find a new life, a new world? An absolutely gripping read that not only stands out among historical fiction, but holds it own alongside the current crop of dystopian literature. Brilliant!


 THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK
author/illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg

In order to properly look at this book, we must first consider the picture book that it’s taken from; The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, first published by Chris Van Allsburg in 1984 and re-released in March 2011.
“Thirty years ago a man called at Peter Wenders’s office, introducing himself as Harris Burdick. Mr. Burdick explained that he had fourteen stories and had drawn many pictures for each one. He’d brought with him just one drawing from each story, to see if Wenders liked his work........ The artist agreed to bring the stories the next morning. He left the fourteen drawings with Wenders But he did not return the next day. Or the day after that. Harris Burdick was never heard from again……”
What follows in ‘The Mysteries of Harris Burdick’ is a collection of those fourteen drawings and their captions. Intriguing, finely detailed and sometimes bizarre, it is hoped that the children pondering this beautiful and unique book will write stories of their own to accompany the drawings.
In ‘The Chronicles of Harris Burdick’, fourteen of the most prominent authors (both children’s and adult authors) have turned their hand to illuminating the drawings with stories of their own, creating a magical journey through the imagination. Jon Scieszka, Gregory Maguire, Lois Lowry, Kate Di Camillo and even Stephen King have contributed to a book that is incredibly unique and memorable. With truly a little something in it for every taste, it is difficult to evaluate in typical literary terms. But the tagline on the front, 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales, says it all. This collection is a pure celebration of storytelling. It is exquisitely produced with the original drawings accenting and acting as inspiration for stories that are funny, frightening, intriguing, intelligent and unpredictable. It takes the picture book concept and turns it on its’ head, especially when considered next to its’ predecessor, expanding and proving the concept that picture books are not just for young children. And, of course, the writing in each story is impeccable as each contributing author shows what a master they are at the art of the short story form. In a few pages only, each one fully develops character, relationships and scenario with perfect description and texture.
An absolute gift to all of us who love a good tale, this book will be treasured for generations to come.
 THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING
author: Catherynne Valente / illustrator: Ana Juan
September has grown tired of life in her parents’ boring Nebraska home. She is twelve years old, “somewhat grown and somewhat heartless” and she is dreaming of adventure. So when a friendly Green Wind and a flying Leopard of Little Breezes blow past on morning, inviting her to Fairyland, of course she accepts. Upon arriving, September finds that Fairyland is under the iron rule of the cruel and relentless Marquess. But September is bright and bold and fearless; and she has certainly read enough books to know what a girl on a quest must do. September must fix things, and put everything back the way it should be. September makes her way across the strange and wonderful (and dangerous) Fairyland-scape with a book-loving Wyvern (a Wyverary) and a Marid boy named Saturday. Making new and very odd friends, many, many mistakes, losing both her shoes and her shadow, September wends her way with courage, adventure, a very special spoon and a key that never loses sight of her…. And she finds so much more besides…..
I’m going to admit

 THE MAGNIFICENT MOON HARE
author: Sue Monroe / illustrator: Birgitte Sif
Princes PJ Petulant is pampered, spoiled and always gets her own way, like when she asks for a pet dragon and it appears almost instantly at great risk to servants and knights.The dragon is named Sandra (even though he's a boy) and PJ immediately tires of him and asks for the Moon Hare. Her wishing causes him to appear (feeling a pull on his ears) and he whisks her off on a rollicking adventure that is more than PJ had in mind.... but you can't have everything you want! Can PJ and Moon Hare rescue King Winston before he has his head cut off by a rather cross (and somewhat crazy) King Rupert? Can they get Sandra the dragon to stop eating knights and servants long enough to fly them to the rescue? And where does Moon Hare get all the things he keeps pulling out of his (PJ's, really) stripy tights?
Filled with quirky, lovable characters; packed full of action and complemented throughout by lyrical, energetic illustrations, The Magnificent Moon Hare is positively wonderful! It manages to be entertaining, humorous and touching all at the same time. It's engrossing story line pulls you through to a beautiful, moving conclusion. In short, I LOVED this book and highly recommend for ages 7 to 10.


 TWELVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
author: Christopher Edge
ISBN: 9780857630506
The year is 1899. Each night at twelve minutes to midnight, the inmates of Bedlam (London's Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane) rise up from their sleep and begin scribbling strange words and messages, and turn them into what would be her best-selling and most famous story ever, Penny finds that she's uncovered a sinister plot controlled by a very real, very evil, very unlikely villain, and she may well be the next victim. 
Suspenseful and brilliantly written, Twelve Minutes to Midnight is an exceptional introduction to the mystery genre in childrens' literature. Packed full of intrigue, this book reads like 'Sherlock Holmes' for kids and all the characters are well-drawn and memorable. Never didactic, never boring, I highly recommend Twelve Minutes to Midnight. It will keep you on the edge of your seat! (for ages 9-12)

JACK HUNTER: SECRETS OF THE KING
author: Martin King
ISBN: 978095710201
When 12 year old Jack Hunter is forced to move to a town in the middle of nowhere, it seems his life couldn't get any worse. Away from all his friends, it's the beginning of the summer holidays in this weird little town where he doesn't know anyone and has nothing to do, apart from visit his aging and ill grandfather. But when Grandad gives his an ancient, solid gold coin and tells him a fantastic story of it's discovery, Jack concocts a plan to discover the rest of the treasure. But can he get his new friends to join in without revealing the secrets as they unfold... and the bad guys in this story mean serious business. They'll stop at nothing to get their hands on this ancient treasure. 'The Secrets of the King' is a cracking adventure story. The characters are well-drawn and easy to relate to. You'll find yourself pulled right along through many fascinating twists, solving the cryptic clues along with Jack. As added intrigue, built into the book are a series of of clues that lead to a secret message for the readers to solve. This is a great book for ages 9 to 12, packed full of drama and excitement. The beginning of a new series, I can't wait for the next installment!
There's also a brilliant website with activities and everything you need to know about Jack Hunter and the author, Martin King!
http://martinkingauthor.com/


A HEN IN THE WARDROBE
by Wendy Meddour

It was a quiet night in Cinnamon Grove, with all its’ residents settled in for a peaceful night sleep. But all is not well with everyone. At number 32, there is a sudden crash and Ramzis’ dad is on the move… looking for a hen in the wardrobe! But that isn’t all. So far, Dad has been chasing frogs across the pantry floor, searching for a leopard in the back garden and sailing to the moon in the bathtub. Dad is sleep-walking again, because he is homesick. The only solution is for the family to take off for an extended visit to his home, a Berber village in the mountains of Algeria. While there, Ramzi encounters Boulelli (a giant spider in the forest), the Wise Man of the mountains and the native Tuareq in the desert in an effort to solve Dad’s problem for good. But will any of it work? Or will it be up to Ramzi and his secret plan to save the day?

This funny, exciting adventure takes the reader on a cross-cultural roller-coaster ride that joyfully examines what it means to be ‘at home’. With Dad’s nocturnal wanderings creating havoc in the Ramadan family life, it quickly becomes clear that something must be done for everyone’s sake. The attention is turned to the wider collection of relatives in an easy, accessible way that adds broader definition to ideas of family and community. While the story is grounded in a background of Islamic culture, terminology is explained in a brief dictionary (written by Ramzi) at the end to alleviate confusion. Meddours’ enthusiasm and joy towards her subject matter and in the telling of the tale are evident throughout as she leads the reader on a journey that she clearly knows well herself. The characters are pure delight, and the dynamics of their interaction in the story are both hilarious and deeply meaningful.

This is a story of a young boy and his family taking off on an adventure and trying to solve a problem in a way that is beneficial to everyone. The descriptions of both action and setting are vivid. Told with heart, warmth and a great deal of fun, ‘A Hen in the Wardrobe’ is marvellous to read. A great laugh with exceptional characterisation and a touching resolution, I recommend it to any and all!

 WONDER
by R.J. Palacio
August Pullman was born with a rare genetic defect that has caused extreme facial disfiguration. He has undergone 27 surgeries since he was born and has always been vulnerable to illness. In order to deal with his medical needs and to shield him from the staring and cruelty of the world, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents for his entire life. But Auggie is stronger now and all of that is about to change.  Auggie is about to enter school for the first time – and he’s petrified. ‘Wonder’ is the story of Auggie’s first year at Beecher Prep and his first journey alone into the outside world. But can he confront the challenges that wait for him there and convince his classmates, new friends, family and himself that, underneath his unusual appearance, he is just the same as everybody else?

Palacio gives us a poignant and honest portrait. Auggie is genuine, tangible and written with amazing attention. He is never presented as a figure of pity, but one of respect and delight. His frankness and honesty about himself and the world around him is refreshing. While he is a young boy of incredible wisdom, it is the innocent wisdom of a child, full of certainty and hesitation at once. Auggie is a voice that speaks of the need to belong and to fit in. His story causes us to really reflect on how we are with each other; how we look at and treat other people and ourselves and why we act the way we do. We are never given a detailed physical description of Auggie’s face. That is left solely to the imagination of the reader. While Auggie’s facial deformities are the major cause of the conflict in the story, they become secondary to the reason for telling the story. It reveals much about not only strength and bravery, but vulnerability and acceptance.  

                “…I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

‘Wonder’ is told not only through Auggie’s voice, but through numerous others as well. Through the voices of Vida (his older sister) and his new friends the reader gets insight into the effect Auggie’s condition on the people around him. Vida particularly stands out as she reveals all sides of her character; her love for her little brother and desire to protect him, as well as the subtleties and complexities of finding her own place in life. Her struggles with relationships, friendships and family as she wades through her own emotions are particularly poignant. As Vida uncovers much about herself, it is easy to relate with her internal dilemmas.

‘Wonder’ is not fast-paced, packed full of action or suspense. It is a gentle, totally mesmerising book written in a compelling, realistic style that invites the reader into the intimate daily life of this marvellous, genuine boy and his family and holds them there.  It is a powerful story that gives us the world we live in with a clean set of eyes; one you will return to again and again, with voices that will stay with you for a very long time. It is also about being yourself, even if the odds are against you, because in the end, that’s all you can be. For ages 10 and up (through adult readers), ‘Wonder’ is a thoroughly wonderful gift and a book that you must read.

THE DEVIL WALKS
author: Anne Fine
Daniel Cunningham has spent his entire childhood as a bedridden invalid. Constantly reminded by his mother of his ‘condition’, Daniel has seldom seen the outside. He has no friends and no experience of the world, of life. Indeed, we discover that Cunningham isn’t even his real name. His mother is clearly not right. Manic, frightened and keeping a secluded existence, one day, Daniel is rescued by Doctor Marlowe and his mother is carted off to the local asylum, where she dies tragically. Marlowe discovers that there is nothing wrong with Daniel and soon finds his uncle, Captain Jack Severn. But Uncle Jack is a psychopath and a serial killer… and young Daniel is his next intended victim. But only after he surrenders the one thing Uncle Jack desires the most. Daniel must quickly develop cunning and worldly wiles to save himself.

Anne Fine has created a perfect, old-style Gothic horror story. The timing, characterisation, location descriptions and chilling atmosphere hearken back to Poe, Conan Doyle and the like. The voice and tenor of the entire book is perfect, and it is not at all difficult for the young reader to follow or understand. It is simply a stunning, riveting introduction to the classic style horror genre for young people (aged 10+). But more than this, The Devil Walks is immediately a classic in and of itself.

THE SLEEPING ARMY
author: Francesca Simon 
When Freya blows an ancient Viking horn, she is suddenly transported to Asgard, the home of the old Nordic Gods, along with three unlikely companions. Face to face with the gods, she is shocked to find them feeble and old, Valhalla crumbling and Yggdrasil, the world tree dying. All of this is part of wicked trickster Loki’s sinister plan to rid himself and the world of them forever. Freya, slaves Roskva and Alfi and Snot the Berserker are charged with a treacherous mission to restore the gods to their former power and glory. The only weapons they have been given are some vague directions and one magical gift each from the addled mind of the once great Odin. With ancient dangers all around and Loki causing them nothing but trouble, Freya and her companions have nine days to save the gods, and herself. Running out of time and beginning to change to ivory, Freya has one thought…..This cannot be happening. 

A rollicking journey with four unforgettable heroes through the world of the Norse gods brought into the present day…and modern family life from the pen of Horrid Henry author, Francesca Simon.

  
ADVENTURE ISLAND: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHISTLING CAVES
author: Helen Moss
Scott and Jack are sent off to Castle Key in Cornwall. They are to spend the summer with Aunt Kate on the small island and are none too happy about it. There’s no mobile reception, an ancient computer, and from what they can see… nothing to do. Then they meet Emily, who, as it turns out, is a ‘spy’, and Drift, the dog. They learn of the famous Whistling Caves and they’re legend. When the caves fall silent, the castle shall know no peace. Then, for the first time since 1385, Whistling Caves do fall silent and there are a series of thefts from the island museum. It’s up to Scott, Jack and Emily and Drift, to find the culprit and solve the crime.

Reading very much like a contemporary Enid Blyton 'Famous Five', this book is a great, exciting and quick read for the 8 to 11 year old set. The characters are very believable and the story is told in an easy, readable, compelling style that allows the reader to feel they are right there. For those who like a good, solid mystery, the Adventure Island series is a fantastic reworking of this formula. Six books in the series are now available, each one is just as good as the first. The retro-style cover makes them appealing to both adults and children alike. Highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyable!
THIN ICE
author: Mikael Engstrom     translator: Susan Beard
published by: Little Island
"Mik has been skating on thin ice his entire life." He lives with his drunk father in a lonely flat. His life there is only bearable when his brother, Tony, is at home. When the social welfare people intervene, Mik is taken for a short time to live with his Aunt Lena in a small northern village. There, he makes friends at the small school he attends, his cranky old neighbor teaches him to ice fish for fish that look like dragons and a hawk owl keeps watch over the house at night. But just as MikMik find himself at home again at last?
Thin Ice is a marvellous eloquent read, with remarkable characterisation. Mik's voice shines clearly thoroughout, allowing the reader to have true insight into the mind of a troubled, desperate child seeking the only thing he really needs... a loving home with those capable of caring for him. Though the cruelty and bureaucracy threaten to overwhelm him at every turn,  Mik's bravery and humour make this a compelling story with genuine impact. Shortlisted for the German International Children's Book Prize, Thin Ice is a book that will stay with you. This is a 'must read' and another triumph for the wonderful Little Island publishers!


TWILIGHT ROBBERY
author: Frances Hardinge
publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Run-away orphan, Mosca Mye and her mentor, the silver-tongued Eponymous Clent are in trouble again. They are on the run through the Fractured Realm, a highly superstitious land in which everything, including your name, is determined by the time of day you were born and the saint governing that time. They have escaped the long arm of the law, thanks to Mosca'sMosca finds herself trapped in Toll-by-Night, where mercy is in short supply, and embroiled in a perilous kidnapping plot and with no ally, apart from Saracen, her homicidal pet goose, and her quick, agile wits. Surrounded by dubious companions on all sides, Mosca uncovers deadly secret after deadly secret. While in Toll-by-Day, Eponymous talks his way into the good graces of the mayor in an effort to win their safe passage. But everything is not as it seems, and it falls to Mosca to reveal the sinister truth.
In Twilight Robbery, we revisit the world that Hardinge so deftly introduced us to in 'Fly By Night'. Her trademark love of language shines through, as Mosca cleverly uncovers layer upon layer of intrigue. It is an incredible treat to visit the Fractured Realm once again. Hardinge's storytelling skills are so adept, that even if you haven't read the previous novel, this story line is easily followed and the characters and their motivations are well described. Pure brilliance exudes in this rollicking alternative history adventure.

VARJAK PAW    by S F Said
Varjak Paw is a beautiful, doted on kitten who longs for adventure and to escape the confines of his pampered, pure-bred family life. Sooner than he thinks, the adventure begins, along with sinister happenings and Varjak finds himself having to fight, not only for his own survival, but for that of his family. He learns all too abruptly, that not every cat has food served up in a bowl, they don't all have cozy and warm beds to sleep in, that all people are not friendly and some are not at all interested in the welfare of beautiful kittens... and not everything (including dogs) is what it seems. And, more than anything else, Varjak Paw learns what it means to be himself, who he really is. With it's vivid descriptions and exciting action scenes, this became one of our family favourites very quickly a few years ago. The story-telling ability of Said is engaging and Varjak (As is it's sequel : 'The Outlaw Varjak Paw'.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
                                     WHEN YOU REACH ME     by Rebecca Stead
When Miranda's best friend, Sal, gets punched in the stomach for no reason, her life begins to unravel. Sal stops hanging around with her, she has to get a whole new set of friends, the key that Miranda's mother keeps hidden for emergencies disappears... and then there are those mysterious notes she keeps receiving. The first one reads...." I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I ask two favours. First, you must write me a letter..." As  the notes keep arriving, Miranda realises that whoever is writing them knows things they shouldn't; things you would only know if you came from the future. How is any of this possible?
This book is the second novel from Rebecca Stead, and it's completely wonderful. The voice is genuine, the relationships and characterisations are well developed and the entire situation is completely believable. 'When You Reach Me' is a puzzle that sucks you in and keeps you totally enthralled. The ending is a real surprise! There is also an under riding theme about giving, receiving and how holding back on small acts of kindness can have great consequences. A gentle, engaging read, 'When You Reach Me' is also a homage to Madeleine L'Engle's classic 'A Wrinkle In Time', which, if you haven't read already, you will certainly want to by the time you finish this book. A true gem!
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THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster:. 
An old friend of mine, The Phantom Tollbooth sells consistently well. I'm sopleased to know that yet another generation of young readers is having the experience of this marvellous, thoroughly unique story. Milo is a young boy who can't see the point of anything. One day, when he returns from school, he finds a mysterious package waiting for him; 'one genuine turnpike tollbooth' that takes him on a fantastic journey and changes the way he sees things forever. From the time it was first published in1963, 'The Phantom Tollbooth' gained a reputation of making readers out of non-readers. Milo's story is thoughtful, intriguing, adventurous, and, at times, truly hilarious. A must for every family bookshelf.


 
Fly By Night     author: Frances Hardinge
In an alternative 18th century England, the 'Fractured Realm' is controlled by the craftsmens guilds. Twelve-year old Mosca Mye leaves home after her father's death, entering a world of thieves, cut-throats and highwaymen. She encounters scandal, corruption, murder, hidden schools and a secret plot to destry the government. Mosca is accompanied on her journey by Eponymous Clent - a noted thief, liar and conman - and her beloved, yet homicidal, goose, Saracen, who always gets the better of everyone.
This brilliant first novel by Frances Hardinge is an absolute must-read. Hardinge's love of language and it's use, an astounding ability to create characters, relationships and a unique world, all of which are incredibly consistant during the entire story, gives a rich and eloquent story. First published in 2005, this is one I return to again and again.

                                                      
 

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